Guatemalan ombudsman warns about deterioration of freedom of expression

Association

On 6th November 2019, unidentified men shot and killed human rights defender Manuel Pérez Hernández at his home in the community Agua Mecate de San Pedro Pínula, Jalapa department. Manuel Pérez was a community defender and social leader of Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (Peasant Development Committee - CODECA), which advocates for land reform. The organisation has denounced the continued repression of its activities and leaders. In 2018, six CODECA defenders were killed. With Manuel Pérez’s assassination, nine leaders of the organisation have been murdered in 2019.

Expression

During a meeting of education professionals in San Marcos on 17th October 2019, a group of union workers surrounded journalists and prevented them from carrying out their work. When the reporters attempted to film a speech at the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Educación (Education Workers' Union - STEG) meeting, they were insulted and beaten by a group of teachers, who also threatened to take away their cameras and other equipment. The reporters left to avoid further attacks. In a press release, the Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG) condemned this attack against journalists and called on the Public Ministry to conduct an investigation to determine who was responsible.

On 2nd November 2019, Guatemala’s Ombudsman Jordán Rodas published a statement on the need to strengthen protection for reporters, creating a framework based on the United Nations Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists. Between May and August 2019, in the context of the country’s electoral campaign, there were 39 incidents where freedom of expression was violated. Reporters covering elections were often obstructed from doing their work and were subjected to intimidation attempts and threats. Rodas urged authorities to unite efforts to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who act against the life and integrity of journalists.

Peaceful Assembly

On 14th November 2019, indigenous people, peasants and activists took to the streets of Guatemala City to march in support of former Bolivian president Evo Morales, repudiating what they believe is a coup in the South American country. CODECA also denounced the repression and violence its leaders are experiencing in Guatemala. The mobilisation remained peaceful and there were no acts of violence or repression.