|Ixchel Mateo is interviewed by Idelfonso Ambrocio and Lorenzo Mateo about the importance of community radio during a protest in Guatemala City, October 2012.|
Today, February 13, is World Radio Day, a day that is dedicated to celebrating radio as a medium. What better day to come together and combat the forces that are working against Indigenous community radio in Guatemala? Cultural Survival's community radio partners in Guatemala are currently fighting for their right to freedom of expression through community radio. Now, a new bill in the Guatemalan congress, Bill 4479, proposes a reform in the criminal code that would sanction the imprisonment of individual actors and representatives of unlicensed stations, effectively criminalizing community radio with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
This bill is a threat to dozens of community radio stations that base their existence on the promises made in the Guatemalan Peace Accords, the country’s own constitution, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Since 1996, when the Peace Accords were signed, community radio has become an important means of communication for Indigenous groups around Guatemala. Even in small villages without electricity, it is likely that most families will have a battery powered radio in order to stay informed on important issues and listen to traditional music and educational programming.
These radio stations currently find themselves in a precarious position, constantly threatened with the possibility of police raids. Many fear that with the passage of Bill 4479, community radio stations would have to close their doors.
(Source: Cultural Survival, UK)