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Independent Radio in Guatemala

Brief update on current independent radio in Guatemala.
This Wednesday, November 22nd, we will be presenting a new proposed law to the congress in Guatemala city. We are moblilizing busloads of people from communities here in the southwest for a demonstration in front of congress during the presentation, to make an impression. We are expecting to move around 5,000 people. Following, is some more information about the process.

The proposal to democratize the means of mass communication arose in order to defend small community radio stations, illegal under the current telecommunications law. At the beginning of the year 2000 many of these stations were threatened with a $US 10,000.00 fine, and jail if the fine was not paid. In the span of a few days a protest was mounted and 5,000 people from the interior of the country united in front of the congress to protest the crackdown on small radios. The fines stopped, and those already fined have to date, never been processed.

Under the current law, the remaining radio frequencies are being auctioned off to the highest bidder, increasing the dominance of comercial interests in mass media here in Guatemala. Because of this situation, we have been working during these months on a new law to recognize grassroots community radio and other means of mass communication as a right of the people. We elaborated this law, conciously working to make community radios a media a true expression of the people and assure that these means of communication won't be so easily manipulated by those who have a different agenda.

For this reason we propose to have the community radios guided by local consejos comunitarios, or community councils. This is a local authority, representative of the community as it includes members from all other local organizations, and which has never been recognized by the government. By including the community councils, the participation of the community is assured, in contrast to the other proposal which was presented to the congress of Guatemala this last October. This other proposal was proclamed on a national and international level by the Association of Community Radios in Guatemala to be the proposal of all the community radios in Guatemala, which is untrue. The proposal was taken from the council of organizations working on this initiative, some fundamental changes were made, excluding the function of the community councils, which would leave the community radios more open to manipulation from outside interests.

This Wednesday, we plan to present the proposed Law on Community Radio and Media to the congress of the Republic of Guatemala with the support of our people, many of who will accompany us there in a demonstration outside of the congress. We at the Association Mujb'ab'l Yol, the Coalition of Radio Broadcasters of the South West of Guatemala and the Association of Community Radios in Sololá, with the support of COPMAGUA are facilitating the mobilization of thousands of people who support this initiative for community radio to the capitol city for the presentation. This is a decisive moment in the movement to democratize the communications media here in Guatemala, I will let you know what happens this week and in the future.

El Centro de Producion Radiofonico Mujb'ab'l Yol



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