“Campaigns of harassment and defamation”: APG denounces the harassment experienced by journalists to carry out their work in Guatemala

On the occasion of Journalist’s Day this Tuesday, November 30, the Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG) held a press conference together with the Human Rights attorney, Jordán Rodas, in which they pointed out the shortcomings and dangers that journalists face in the exercise of their profession in Guatemala.

Factor Méndez, a member of the APG’s press freedom commission, pointed out that this date would be to celebrate, but on the contrary, they are denouncing the systematic attacks that on the part of official sectors of the government and the three branches of the State have initiated to attack the media, social communicators, journalists and, in general, members of the national press.

He added that the foregoing surely occurs because the information, journalistic investigations and the daily work of the press media in informing the population makes them uncomfortable.

“For this reason, the offensive against freedom of expression, thought, press and information is seriously threatened by the intolerant attitude of the government authorities and the three branches of the State,” said Méndez.

Through a statement, the APG stated that “the safety of journalists and the guarantees for the free exercise of journalism continued to deteriorate during the second year of the government of Alejandro Giammattei.”

He pointed out that from January 1 to October 31, 2021, the APG’s Journalists’ Observatory recorded 116 cases of attacks and restrictions of different kinds against the media and journalists, a figure slightly less than that reported in the same period of the year. 2020, when 124 cases were counted.

In the same period of this year, the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes Committed Against Journalists of the Public Ministry (MP) received 73 complaints, while the Ombudsman for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) heard 120 cases against media and communicators.

The APG noted that “state authorities are primarily responsible for the alarming increase in acts against the press. During this year alone, the Observatory of Journalists identified 48 acts in which authorities and employees of different levels of the State are involved. Of these, 39 are related to members of the Presidency, Congress, Judicial Organism, MP, Constitutional Court and Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) ”.

To these are added other events whose perpetrators are unknown, but the responsibility of government officials is strongly suspected, such as harassment and defamation campaigns on digital platforms, attacks on media portals and the suspension of accounts on social networks. media and journalists, for the massive complaints received by those sites.

It affirms that there are also cases such as derogatory and stigmatizing statements towards the media, refusal to provide statements or information by officials, unjustified restrictions for the press to cover meetings where they participate or angry responses to reporters by authorities, to avoid answering questions that make them uncomfortable.

The APG emphasized that one of the phenomena that was repeated the most this year, as in previous years, are defamatory campaigns on social networks. Only in this period, the Observatory of Journalists registered 19 of these, which are initiated and replicated by netcenters that act with the approval of the authorities and, quite possibly, are financed with ill-gotten and embezzled money from the public coffers.

Censorship in social networks

Another worrying phenomenon that has increased in recent months is censorship on social networks through the elimination of journalistic content or the provisional suspension of media accounts and journalists.

This occurs not only due to the change in policies of digital platforms, but also due to the massive complaints they receive when news or investigations are published that refer to political power, the APG noted.

“We also continue to witness how the political power or sectors linked to it continued to use criminal law to attack the press, through spurious complaints or unjustified raids such as those recently registered in El Estor, Izabal, during the State of Siege.”

It warns that “the co-option of the justice sector by Giammattei and his political allies increases the fear that these processes will culminate in imprisonment, convictions of journalists or the imposition of exorbitant fines on the media, due to their publications or investigations that involve to state officials or close associates, such as family members, friends or financiers ”.

He also pointed out that “the servility of the attorney general, María Consuelo Porras Argueta, towards the president, congressmen and other high-level officials, and her perverse interest in retaliating against the press, could cause her to revive or continue to accelerate the investigations against journalists , although these lack foundations and evidence, and on the contrary, hinder investigations that are in the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists ”.

He affirmed that a similar case occurred with the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), which was opaquely elected more than 6 years ago and that it continues in office irregularly two years later, and the Constitutional Court (CC), which with its resolutions would seek to punish members of the press, but could safeguard officials or former officials involved in attacks against journalists, as in the case of PNC agents or one of the most emblematic cases of a former congressman prosecuted for the murder of two reporters in March of 2015 in Suchitepéquez.

To read more: 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for journalists María Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

The APG emphasized that “it is essential to emphasize that these predators of freedom of expression entrenched in the State not only restrict this right to members of the press, but also to citizens who express or show their discontent against political figures, mainly against the President Giammattei. It is common for citizens to be the victim of police harassment during public protests or to be singled out by the police, simply for expressing their rejection of the authorities ”.

The statement added that these actions against journalists and the population continue according to the guidelines of the Minister of the Interior, Gendri Reyes, who continues in the position and without being prosecuted for the human rights violations and abuses committed during the days of November 21 and 28. from 2020-

You warn that the interest of Giammattei and other state authorities to undermine freedom of expression will cause this government to become the period with the most attacks on the press and that the work environment for journalists is increasingly difficult, which could reach levels of intolerance, violence and censorship such as those experienced in Nicaragua, with the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, and Honduras, with the authoritarian regime of Juan Orlando Hernández.

Journalists march in the capital

Under the slogan “Press against censorship and they will not shut us up” independent journalists marched this day from the Central Plaza to the Presidential House to demand respect for independence and freedom of expression and to denounce the different aggressions and attacks that have existed against journalists what they investigate and report to public officials.


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