Thursday, November 3, 2011

Activist anthropology: Declaration of the Community Radio Movement

On Sunday (October 30) in the workshop for community radios, I spent the first part of the morning working on a denunciation of a law, initiative 4404, that is being proposed in the Guatemala Congress, that will extend the media monopoly for 25 years. Basically this law guarantees to the people and companies that already hold licenses for radio frequencies, another 25 years of those frequencies, without giving any legal status to community radios. Community radios are in a precarious position as they have no legal standing. They are not illegal technically -- a point we make all the time -- but they do not fit into any of the existing categories of telecommunications law in Guatemala. And so they have no protection. The police or Ministerio Publico can show up any time and just shut down the radio -- they did this a week and a half ago in Chichicastenango.  So, fighting to stop the monopolies, and also to guarantee the rights of community radio stations to have a legal status and enjoy legal protection.

Here is the text of the communication we wrote; this was signed by the 20 radio stations that attended the workshop and then was emailed to the president of the Congress, the congress person who proposed initiative 4404, and the presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón, as the congressman who proposed the law is from his political party, LIDER.

Denounce the Initiative 4404, favoring media monopolies in Guatemala

The community radio movement of Guatemala, in the face of national and international public opinion, denounces that on 27 September this year the deputy Roberto Ricardo Villate Villatoro, of the political party LIDER, presented to the Legislative Department of the Congress, the Initiative with registration number 4404, which aims to renew Radio Frequency Broadcasting law of the Telecommunications Authority, for another 25 years, renewable for equal periods. Extending the use of radio frequencies is a threat to the effort and struggle being made by the community radio movement, which for 14 years has proposed that the right of indigenous peoples and other traditionally excluded sectors, to have their own means of communication, be recognized within the legal framework of the country. This proposed bill contradicts the provisions of Subsection H of the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples (of the Peace Accords), Article 35 of the Political Constitution of the Republic and international agreements. Freedom of expression is a human right guarantted in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and in Article 13 of the Convention of the Organization of American States. Furthermore, Article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifies the right of indigenous peoples have their own media.

We ask those honest members of Congress elected by popular vote to oppose the adoption of the initiative 4404 presented by Deputy Villate Villatoro, which only serves the interests of the monopoly of the media in Guatemala, and not the interests of the excluded majority. Furthermore, we demand that the Congress facilitate approval of  Initiative 4087 on Community Media, which already has received a favorable opinion from the Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the Congress.

We ask for the solidarity of the social movements and other civil society institutions in denouncing these violations, and to support, defend and strengthen the work of community radio.

For indigenous peoples' right to the means of communication
The Community Radio Movement of Guatemala
Just as we finished writing and translating and printing out a copy, at the training center in San Mateo, a car stopped by, with the newly elected congressperson from LIDER, representing Quetzaltenango, and we gave him a copy personally, and explained what it was about.  

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