Guatemala: UN Urges Inclusion of Community Radio in New Reforms

November 28, 2012


The Congress of Guatemala approved a bill in a closed-door session on November 20th reforming the Telecommunications Law to extend the current commercial radio licenses for another 20 years.

The UN issued a statement in response stating their concern over these new changes that were made without any discussion with affected populations and with what has been called “unusual speed,” according to the national newspaper the Prensa Libre.

Alberto Brunori, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala, explained:  “It seems like a lost opportunity to open a channel of communication to the community radio stations, and the approval of this law came unexpectedly, without ample discussion as was expected… The Legislative branch has failed to take advantage of an opportunity to include regulation that would specifically guarantee access for Indigenous Peoples to obtain radio frequencies, allowing the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.”

Brunori highlighted that this was one of the recommendations made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, after her visit to Guatemala in March of 2012 where she received an audience with members of the community radio movement. 

“The best procedure would have been to hold forums to amplify discussion,” explained Brunori.

The UN took issue with the law because it does not allows access equal to radio frequencies for all sectors of the population, particularly excluding Indigenous Peoples.

The Congress approved reforms to the country’s Telecomunications law after a closed-door session with little debate, after the point had been included on the congressional agenda unexpectedly.  The reforms extended the current radio frequency lisences for another 20 years, along with television, telephone, and internet frequencies.

Brunori offered assistance to legislatures to correct current laws, which violate international standards like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which guarantees Indigenous Peoples the right to their own forms of media.

The community radio movement in Guatemala has been promoting reforms to the Telecomunications law that would create a space for community radio within the radio frequency spectrum, allowing Indigenous Peoples access and control over their own forms of media in Guatemala.  Bill 4087 for Community Media has been awaiting congressional approval since 2010.

Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Cultural Survival, explains that these new reforms won’t have any impact on the current legal status of community radio for Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala. “Commercial radio licenses and community radio licenses don’t have to compete with each other.  Because community radio stations would operate on relatively low-wattage, we feel there is plenty of room on the radio spectrum to allow for both to operate peacefully,” he explained.  Unfortunately the congress has seen fit to change the Telecomunications law to benefit commercial radio stations, while still making no provision for any form of nonprofit community radio.  


Since 1972 Cultural Survival has been advocating for Indigenous Peoples' rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience.

Learn More

To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.

Do More

For ways to take action to help Indigenous communities, click here.


We take on governments and multinational corporations—and they always have more resources than we do—but with the help of people like you, we do win. Your contribution is crucial to that effort. Click here to do your part.

Together, We Can Support Indigenous Communities in Nepal

nepal map

Cultural Survival is not a disaster relief organization. We work towards a world in which the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected, protected, and fulfilled.

Bikalpa Gyan Kedra, an organization in Nepal founded by our Board Member Stella Tamang offers alternative educational opportunities to Indigenous girls and is not a disaster relief organization either, but since the earthquake they have been acting as a shelter to 300 local families. They need basic items like drinking water and food.

Radio Kairan in Kubu-Kasthali is asking for help with purchasing a power generator to get his community radio station back up and running to provide an essential means of communication for villagers on relief efforts as well as to power his community. Cost for this generator would be about $2,500

We have set up a special fund to assist our Indigenous contacts in Nepal. With your help, we can provide some limited assistance to our friends in desperate need.

Donate to Nepal