At 10:40 in the morning on November 15th, uniformed and armed police from a neighboring town broke into community station Radio Damasco. No arrests were made, but the police confiscated the station’s transmitter, computer, two microphones, and one console, for a total of about $6,300 dollars in equipment. Radio station director Victor Angel reported that fortunately, the station was unoccupied at the time of the break in, as an hour long program had been automated for broadcast.
This comes as the third raid of a community radio station in Guatemala since right-wing political party Patriota has taken office in January.
Indigenous Peoples’ right to their own media is guaranteed in article 16 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and was promised in the 1996 Peace Accords that ended the Guatemalan civil war. Despite these promises, the Guatemalan telecommunications law does not allow licenses for nonprofit community radio; only commercial radio and government-run radio are allowed to operate legally.
Stations are occasionally raided by police without warning to discourage their broadcasting over frequencies for which they do not own a license.
Ironically, police local to communities are often guests on the air at community radio stations across the country. In nearby San Jose Caben, San Marcos, local police officers recently visited the station to host a program on crime prevention. “We really value the community radio’s role in the community here,” reported Inspector Monzon Aguilar. “They serve as a source of information for us, and to educate and inform the neighbors of the community.”
Alberto Recinos, president of the community radio association Mujb’ab’l Yol has reiterated grassroots leaders' commitment to fight for the legalization: “They can steal the equipment from community radio stations, but they will never be able to silence the voice of the children, youth, men, women, and elders who urge this movement forward. No one is giving up.”
The network of Guatemalan community radio stations have responded to the raids on their local programming, calling the raids a violation of their rights to freedom of expression. "The media monopoly, with their economic power, continues to trample our right to freedom of expression.... They want to shut down the voices of vast majority in our country." They call for an end to the persecution and criminalization of community radio in Guatemala, and they urge the Guatemalan Congress to pass Initiative 4087, the "Community Media Bill" that would create legal authorization for non-profit community radio.
Go to http://www.culturalsurvival.org for more information.