Saturday, August 3, 2013

Raids on radio stations and free speech

The attacks on community radio stations continue, at the same time as new stations are opening up. There was a series of raids on radio stations in the area around Lake Atitlán, resulting in some stations closing voluntarily rather than run the risk of being raided. I had stopped by Radio Juventud, a community radio station located right along the Panamerican Highway in Sololá, a few kilometers west of Los Encuentros, on my first trip north this round, but no one from the radio station was present. Then I called Olga, one of the coordinators of the radio station, about two weeks later, as I was leaving Lake Atitlán, even though I wasn't headed precisely in her direction. She told me that they had decided to go off the air until the situation with the other radio stations was resolved.

Then,  a few days ago, the Guatemala City offices of Frank LaRue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Speech, were raided by "unknown persons", according to the local papers. Apparently the police are "looking into" the matter, but it seems pretty clear that this was no ordinary robbery. Frank La Rue, who is Guatemalan, has been an outspoken advocate and critic. I first met him decades ago, during the civil war, when he was one of the representatives of the Guatemalan opposition.  He came to speak at the first encounter of community radios two years ago, in Guatemala City, and has frequently criticized the government's repression of free speech, and the remilitarization of Guatemalan society. What was stolen were computers and some files. While I don't have any inside information about the break-in or who was responsible, it carries all the marks of a "signature attack" -- designed to send a message as much as inflict direct harm (we can hope that he had back ups of everything that was in the stolen computers and hopefully the files were not original documents of which there were no copies). 

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