In Guatemala, physical assaults, false accusations and the prosecution of community journalists is increasing, and the lack of support from the mass media in denouncing these intimidations is creating precarious conditions for the exercise of freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the concentration of the mass media in the hands of a few and their monopolistic practices are putting a crack in democracy.
The realities being faced by community radio stations right now in Guatemala show that the State is not fulfilling its obligation to respect, protect and promote the right to freedom of expression.
Alternative, popular and grassroots media continue to be repressed and attacked. Today, there is the case of Radio Snuq’ Jolom Konob‘, who is transmitting information via radio and the internet from Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango about the happenings that affect life in the Q’anjob’al municipality of Santa Eulalia.
On January 19, the radio denounced the persecution of community leaders and acts of aggression by the Mayor of Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango, Diego Marcos Pedro. At dawn on January 20, a group of the Mayor’s supporters shut down the radio, cutting off the electricity, and became violent with members of the radio team. All of this was done with the support of the Mayor.
This hasn’t been the first attack that Mr. Diego Marcos Pedro conducted against Radio Snuq’ Jolom Konob’. In September, 2014, he shut down the building and suspended the electricity because the station was transmitting an event run by the community authorities in Santa Eulalia. Due to pressure from communities, he had to reinstate the electricity to the radio; there are already official complaints registered with the Public Prosecutor’s Office under Crimes Against Journalists. In many cases, however, due to the criminalization of community journalists and the stigmatization against them, often these complaints are not followed through.
- We demand: an end to the acts of aggression against community press, reporters and journalists. The act of filing criminal charges, the laws that criminalize the work of citizen journalists, the closing of radios and physical aggressions committed against journalists all constitute a policy of repression against freedom of expression.
- We ask: that Congress approves legislation that recognizes alternative and community media.
- We need: the Unit for Crimes Against Journalists to be strengthened in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as part of a general social need to strengthen the judicial system in the country.
- We demand: the Government of Guatemala provide clear reports on the advancements in the Program for the Protection of Journalists – an initiative offered by the Government since November 2013.
- We ask: the Human Right’s Ombudsman to pay special attention to what is happening in the interior of the country, where community media are being intimidated by powerful local actors bent on ensuring they cannot fulfill their roles as information providers.
- We invite: fellow journalists to be responsible, committed and truthful in carrying out our work to provide the country with information, as democracy rests in our voices and our words.