17 journalists killed between 2015 and 2018

Association

On 1st November 2018, unknown people broke into the house of activist and journalist Norma Sancir. The incident occurred after Sancir and her partner Ubaldino GarcĂ­a, returned from a press conference where they demanded the closure of the Cantera Los Manantiales mine. 

Land disputes in Guatemala between local communities and private corporations continue causing legal harassment and threats to activists in Guatemala. As a response to this, a group of CSOs working for environmental protection and land rights decided to create an alliance to protect their rights as the State has been unable to do so. Initiatives include pursuing the protection of human rights defenders, safeguarding the communities’ right to their lands and the beginning of a constituent process in order to declare Guatemala a plurinational State that protects the diverse interests and needs of the communities living in the country.

As reported previously on the Monitor, the environment for human rights defenders in Guatemala continues to be hostile. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement on 31st October 2018, expressing alarm over the increase in murders and aggressions against human rights defenders. In particular, the Commission reminded the State: 

"To carry out official investigations into crimes of this sort and sanction those responsible for planning and implementing them. The Commission particularly urges the state to pursue lines of investigation that contemplate whether the murders in question were committed specifically because of the victims’ involvement in human rights work. These investigations must be exhaustive, serious, and impartial, and be conducted with due diligence."

Peaceful Assembly

Residents of Santa Cruz del QuichĂ© took to the streets and blocked the road that connects QuichĂ© with Ilotenango to protest the current bad conditions of the road. The next day, on 24th October 2018, transporters, residents, municipal authorities of Santa Cruz del QuichĂ© and the Communications Minister, JosĂ© Benito, met in the People's Hall of Congress to discuss road repairs. After a long and heated discussion, the Minister and Congressmen representing Santa Cruz del QuichĂ©, suggested the creation of a commission that will visit the company responsible for the building of this road, which has been in charge of the project since 2014. The commission will have representatives from the community. 

Expression

The AsociaciĂłn de Periodistas de Guatemala (Journalists Association of Guatemala, APG) rejected a new proposal to modify the Criminal Code that will undermine freedom of expression online by creating the crime of "Political Harassment". The new proposal will punish those "who perform acts of pressure, persecution or harassment to applicants, elected authorities, appointed or in the exercise of public office, during or after the electoral process, by any means of dissemination and/or on digital platforms with the purpose of preventing the exercise of their political right (...) " with up to three years in prison. 

The president of the Guatemalan Chamber of Journalism, Mario Fuentes Destarac, claimed that these type of crimes were already declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court back in 2006. 

In separate developments, the Ombudsman office of Guatemala reported that between 2015 and 2018, 17 journalists were murdered in the country. Between January 2015 and August 2018, at least 121 attacks against journalists were documented, including the 17 murders, 30 physical attacks, 24 threats, and 16 cases of intimidation.