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The Press Freedom Committee of the Guatemalan Association of Journalists (Comisión de Libertad de Prensa de la Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, APG) and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) were in Washington, D.C. last week making presentations before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In a special hearing before the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, APG said journalists in Guatemala continue to face murders, kidnappings, physical assaults and death threats in a climate of impunity that pervades the country.

The group submitted a report to Bertoni, blaming the Guatemalan government for failing to safeguard the rule of law and conduct investigations into attacks on journalists and other free-expression violations. In most cases, attacks on journalists go unpunished, partly because in many areas, the perpetrators of these crimes work under the orders of local authorities themselves, APG said.

The report also said the Guatemalan government's allocation of broadcast frequencies was unfair, favouring broadcasters sympathetic to its policies.

This has been a concern the Special Rapporteur on Free Expression has voiced in the past. In his 2001 annual report, he noted the existence of a "de facto monopoly" in the ownership of television stations, saying it had "a serious impact on the Guatemalan people?s freedom of expression and right to information."

The report concluded that "private monopolies follow policies aimed at shaping public opinion on behalf of government sectors, thus hindering the work of independent journalism." Under the Guatemalan constitution, media monopolies are prohibited.

Meanwhile, in its presentation to the IACHR, AMARC stressed the importance of media pluralism and the need for legislative reform in Latin America to democratise citizens' access to broadcasting.

The group recommended that Bertoni conduct a survey of Latin American countries to find out which country's broadcasting laws violated the Organisation of American States' American Convention on Human Rights. It said it would offer expertise and support in producing the survey.

To obtain a copy of APG's report, contact Illeana Alamilla of APG:
[email protected].

For more information on AMARC, contact Gustavo Gómez:
[email protected].

Visit these links:

- OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression:

- IACHR's 2001 Report on Human Rights in Guatemala:

- OAS American Convention on Human Rights:

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