Journalism plays a fundamental role in the life of our societies. Have individuals and teams of qualified people, with institutions dedicated to investigating the facts of society and continuously reporting, both what happens at first glance and unraveling what is not apparent, what moves under the surface or behind us, and that directly or indirectly affects the lives of all, it is a fundamental task, which we do not always appreciate enough. If it weren’t for the journalistic work of so many men and women in the world and in Guatemala, it would be difficult for us to find out most of what happens in the labyrinths of power, outside of our daily lives.
For these reasons, journalism, the media and journalists are among the first elements that dictatorial regimes, power, in general, try to silence, annul or destroy. In 2021, Guatemala was ranked 116th out of 180 countries where the World Press Freedom Index produced by the Periodistas Sin Fronteras organization was measured. We lack little to be on the side of countries that, for years, have totally annulled the freedom of the press and the right to inform. In 2020 alone, 50 journalists were killed in the world, in countries that are not in a state of war. And where they are not murdered or imprisoned, there is a revival of totalitarian actions aimed at silencing them, raising unfounded legal cases, discrediting their reputation or threatening them in multiple ways. In other cases, those who try to silence independent media give them unfair competition or seek their financial asphyxiation.
In recent months we are seeing a worsening of all these situations in our country and in Central America. The regressive and authoritarian vein takes pleasure in attacking journalists and media outlets who do not respond with the narrative desired by those who have captured the State and its institutions. Community and departmental journalists are especially vulnerable, especially in racist and exclusionary societies like this one, which so unequally value everything that is produced outside the feudal city. However, as authoritarianism advances, even national and internationally well-known urban media and journalists are being threatened. Thus, the process grows until censorship becomes the norm for all people. Even international institutions that we could never have imagined are being folded into this aberrational situation. Do they want Guatemala to end up as a true copy of the countries where freedom of the press and freedom to inform is outlawed and that they have criticized so much for years and years?
These phenomena of “silence” of dissent inevitably end, curtailing freedom of expression for all citizens. They return us to the kingdom of fear, of mistrust of one another, and of the impossibility of establishing ties of mutual cooperation to solve society’s problems. We have already lived through all this in the history of the country and the region, and we know how damaging it is and how difficult it is to recover from these dynamics. Journalism is an indispensable counterweight to absolute power, which is the most damaging thing there can be for humanity. Those who were born after 1985 do not know what it means to live in a silenced society. Those who now believe that their silence is a low price for maintaining their social and economic position, sooner rather than later realize that, when that right is taken away, all other guarantees end up disappearing very quickly.