Urgent Action! Support Indigenous Radio in Guatemala

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture

guatemala_radio

Urgent Action: Legalize Community Radio / Guatemala

Support Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Guatemala: Legalize Community Radio

August 2009

Around the world, the press has become increasingly commercialized and consolidated. If we’re lucky, we have access to independent community radio stations where we can hear news from alternative sources and contribute our own views. For many of us, community radio is a great democratizing movement. For indigenous peoples, community radio may be a matter of life or death.

Actions Needed

(1) Urge the President of Guatemala to support a bill to legalize indigenous community radio stations

(2) Forward this alert to your community radio station and ask for their support!

Although Guatemala has a majority indigenous population, native peoples have historically been persecuted, stripped of their human rights, and massacred. Now, after a 36-year civil war, democracy is emerging in Guatemala, but indigenous people remain excluded from political representation and lack access to crucial information about healthcare and education. Community radio stations help fill this need, broadcasting in 15 indigenous languages and providing an alternative to commercial media.

For indigenous peoples, community radio may be the only source of information available in their language. It’s how they learn from external sources about civic elections, AIDS prevention, flood warnings and daily news. It’s how they share local information among themselves, celebrate their unique cultures, and organize community action.

Despite many promises, the legal use of radio frequencies remains inaccessible for indigenous communities in Guatemala – unless they can come up with as much as $125,000 to bid for a license. Some 600 stations operate without licenses, many of them working out of one-room offices with donated equipment. They are subject to police raids, fines, and closure, especially in regions where indigenous people are resisting mining and other assaults on their lands and their rights.

The stations and their communities are determined to win the right to operating licenses, a right that was promised 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.

On August 3, over a thousand rural people made the long trip to the capital to rally in support of a bill that was introduced to the Guatemalan Congress. The Community Media Act, or “Antiproyecto de Ley de Medios de Comunicacion Comunitaria,” would create a National Council of Community Media that would award licenses to community radio stations, with the participation of the local communities.

Indigenous organizations, community radio stations and NGOs that work for public health, the environment and human rights are calling on international citizens to support this bill by writing to the president of Guatemala. Please refer to the included sample letter and add your own personal reasons for supporting the bill if you wish. Letters may be sent to the following address:

Constitutional President of the Republic of Guatemala

Ingeniero Álvaro Colom Caballeros

Casa Presidencial

6 a. Avenida, 4-18 Zona 1

Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Note: Postage from the US is 98 cents.

Sample Letter

Date

Constitutional President of the Republic of Guatemala

Ingeniero Álvaro Colom Caballeros

Casa Presidencial

6 a. Avenida, 4-18 Zona 1

Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Dear President Colom,

As a supporter of human rights in my own country and around the world, I am very pleased to know that Guatemalans may soon enjoy the right to free expression via community radio stations. I am writing to encourage you to support the “Ley de Medios de Comunicacion Comunitaria,” which was introduced on August 3rd 2009 to the Guatemalan Congress. I feel strongly about the rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala and urge you to take this step towards protecting their rights.

As you know, the passage of this law would provide a licensing process for community radio stations in Guatemala, ending the police raids and closures which have threatened the stations’ continued operation. This right is already embedded in Guatemalan Peace Accords, Article 35 of the Guatemalan constitution, Article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Convention 169 and reinforced by the recommendations of the OAS in 2004.

Community radio stations are essential to indigenous peoples in Guatemala because they broadcast in indigenous languages, often providing the only means of access to important information about health, education, and current events.

I appreciate the work you have done to protect human rights and promote democracy in Guatemala, such as your anti-impunity measures and declassification of Civil War documents. I strongly urge you to continue to advocate for human rights by supporting the Ley de Medios de Comunicacion Comunitaria. Your immediate attention to this matter will ensure that community radio stations continue to operate as powerful tools for democracy and human rights.

Please do everything within your power to secure passage of this important bill. Human rights advocates around the world are eager to celebrate this important step forward for human rights in Guatemala.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS

*********************************

This action alert was requested by: Mujb’ab ‘l yol, Association of Guatemalan Community Radios (ARCG), National Coordinator of Indigenous Community Radio of Guatemala (CNRCIG), Community Media Association of Solola (AMECOS), Community Communications Association of South-Eastern Guatemala (ACECSOGUA)

Participating organizations: Cultural Survival, Health Unlimited, Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA, and Global Response.

For more information about indigenous community radio in Guatemala, see www.culturalsurvival.org.

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