Riding the tides of Guatemala’s recent political uprising, congressional allies in Guatemala have managed to insert the Community Media Bill 4087 onto the agenda in Congress this week in Guatemala City.
The bill, which would legalize community radio in the country, was originally introduced in 2009, but has been stalled for years. The first reading of the bill before congress took place this past Tuesday, February 2, 2016 and the second reading will take place Thursday, February 4, 2016. This is an enormous achievement for the Community Radio Movement in Guatemala, but the bill will not pass without a flurry of action by constituents: the new congress has only been in office for two weeks, and many of the newly-elected congress people have not yet been educated on the importance of this bill and what it means for the freedom of expression of Indigenous Peoples in the country. Indigenous community organizers across Guatemala are already mobilizing, via social media using the hashtag #4087 and in person in Guatemala City, and Cultural Survival is right there with them.
The bill would modify the Guatemalan telecommunications laws to allow for each municipality in Guatemala access to non-profit licenses for community radio. Community radio stations serve the vital function of distributing information about important news and educational programing like emergency disaster relief, voter registration, public health campaigns to listeners in their own native language, and reaches even the poorest most rural areas where radio is the only affordable form of communication.
As many of our long time supporters know, community radio stations are essential to the well-being of rural communities, the promotion and revitalization of Indigenous cultures and languages, and informed citizenry. Without this crucial legalization, individuals are forced to risk jail time if they choose to exercise their right to freedom of expression by speaking on the air, and radio stations are regularly raided and closed by police and military forces.
A vote on Bill 4087 could be scheduled for as soon as Tuesday, February 9th. In order for it to pass, 105 of the 158 members of congress must vote in favor. We are encouraging Guatemalan citizens to contact their representatives and urge them to vote for the bill.
Stay tuned for more news during this exciting time!