The foundation of any democracy is an informed citizenry. In Guatemala, community radio is the best tool to provide rural, Indigenous Guatemalans with the news and information that they need. The country’s 80 community radio stations, which broadcast locally in Spanish and Mayan languages, provide a crucial venue for educational programs, local and national news, preventative health care, and emergency relief.
However, community radio stations are frequently the targets of police raids at the orders of the goverment and commercial media magnates. Despite promises made in the Guatemalan Constitution and the Peace Accords, the telecommunications law does not allow licenses for nonprofit community radio. Only mainstream commercial radio and government-run radio are allowed, leaving community radio in legal limbo.
With the Bill 4087 for community radio, the stations and their communities are determined to win the right to have operating licenses, a right that was authorized in Guatemalan Peace Accords, Article 35 of the Guatemalan constitution, Article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the International Labor Organization Convention 169. However, a lack of political will in Congress has left Bill 4087 bookshelved while waiting for a date on the agenda.
Now, a new bill has been submitted in Congress by the right-wing party LIDER, Bill 4479, that would reform the criminal code to sanction the imprisonment of individual actors and representatives of radio stations that do not have legal authority to broadcast for up to 10 years. The passage of this law is a threat to the dozens of community radio stations across Guatemala and could force them off the air for good.
Please help Indigenous Guatemalans gain protection for the community radio stations that are so important to their communities, by writing a letter to key members of political parties encouraging the scheduling and approval of Bill 4087, the Law for Community Media, and the rejection of Bill 4479 that so blatenlty violates Indigenous Peoples freedom of expression.