CIVICUS

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Guatemala

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Last updated on 05.11.2018 at 14:47

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Journalist and activist Bartolo Fuentes detained and deported to Honduras

Journalist and activist Bartolo Fuentes detained and deported to Honduras

On 16th October 2018, the Guatemalan police arrested Honduran journalist and activist Bartolo Fuentes. Fuentes entered Guatemala the previous day with the "Migrant Caravan" that began in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and was currently passing through Guatemala on its way to the United States.

Expression

On 16th October 2018, the Guatemalan police arrested Honduran journalist and activist Bartolo Fuentes. Fuentes had entered Guatemala the previous day with the "Migrant Caravan" that began in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and was currently passing through Guatemala on its way to the United States. According to reports, he was accused "of an administration infraction with regard to his entry into Guatemala" and deported three days later. The Comité por la Libre Expresión (Committee for Free Expression, C-Libre) condemned the incident and claimed this was a case of "selective detention" against Bartolo for his role in documenting the migrant caravan and the human rights violations that migrants and refugees are facing while trying to reach the US. 

Fuentes’ partner, Dunia Montoya, denounced the "hostile climate generated by the stigmatization campaign against [Fuentes] and the Caravan and the institutional obstacles that she faced while trying to advocate for and safeguard her partners’ rights". As Montoya explains, this is a response of Guatemalan and Honduran authorities to the US-Government's pressure that wants to stop the caravan before it gets to the US-Mexico border.

The Honduran "Migrant Caravan" arrived on 15th October 2018 to Guatemalan, in an effort to reach the United States due to the "violence, repression, corruption and impunity in Honduras." It was reported that the caravan was stopped by Guatemalan police at several checkpoints.

Peaceful Assembly

On 17th October 2018, a protest organised by doctors demanding an increase in their salaries was held in the vicinity of the Guatemala Congress. No incidents were reported during the demonstration. 

Association

Despite being recognised in the constitution, there are a number of restrictions on freedom of association in Guatemala, most of which are linked to crime and violence.

Despite being recognised in the constitution, there are a number of restrictions on freedom of association in Guatemala, most of which are linked to crime and violence. A wide variety of CSOs operate in Guatemala, but some confront significant obstacles. Although access to funding is not limited by law, a propaganda campaign against international cooperation has reduced foreign funding in recent years. Human rights defenders are severely criminalised: the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala documented 174 murders of defenders between 2000 and August 2014. In the first half of 2016 alone, the organisation documented 86 attacks and threats against activists. The targets of these attacks and threats are predominantly land rights and environmental defenders, as well as indigenous rights defenders and trade union leaders. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists. Workers are frequently prevented from organising, and unionised workers are regularly subject to intimidation and violence.

Peaceful Assembly

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, only requiring organisers to give the authorities prior notification

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, only requiring organisers to give the authorities prior notification. However, in practice, this right is far from unrestricted. Security forces’ repression of protests – particularly those of indigenous and rural populations - is relatively frequent while recent legal innovations have made the disruption of demonstrations more likely. The 2014 Traffic Circulation and Obstruction of Roads Act, known as the Ley de Túmulos, prohibits roadblocks and any other obstacles to vehicular circulation, and punishes noncompliance with fines and imprisonment. Many mobilisations in 2014 and 2015 came in response to escalating restrictions on civic space. Also noteworthy were massive anti-corruption demonstrations in 2015, which forced the resignations and prosecution of the country’s president and vice-president.

Expression

Although the right to freedom of expression is recognised in the Constitution of Guatemala, both legal and de facto restrictions abound.

Although the right to freedom of expression is recognised in the Constitution of Guatemala, both legal and de facto restrictions abound. Among the former are prohibitions against broadcasts that offend civic values, national symbols, morals, and good etiquette, while defamation remains a criminal offence punishable with fines and imprisonment. Media ownership is highly concentrated in private conglomerates, and community radio stations – which are not even recognised under the 2012 General Telecommunications Law – are increasingly under attack, especially in communities involved in land and environmental conflicts. Journalists are routinely threatened, intimidated, judicially harassed, and even physically assaulted by both state and non-state actors. In the first half of 2016, 5 media workers were killed. Levels of self-censorship are high in areas where organised crime is prevalent, especially where its activity concerns issues such as drug trafficking, corruption, and human rights violations. An Access to Information Law was passed in 2008, but obtaining government-held information remains difficult. While Internet access is unrestricted, news websites are increasingly targeted by cyber-attacks, and online editors and reporters are also threatened and assaulted.