Media Reform: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Mexico City, 31 March 1995)

III. Cultural Rights: H. Mass media

1. Like the educational system, the communications media play a paramount role in the defence, development and transmittal of cultural values and knowledge. It is the responsibility not only of the Government but also of all those working in and involved with the news media to promote respect for indigenous cultures, the dissemination of such cultures, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and to help all Guatemalans to take full possession of their multicultural heritage.

2. For its part, in order to promote the broadest possible access to the communications media by the Maya communities and institutions and those of the other indigenous peoples, the widest possible dissemination in indigenous languages of the indigenous, and especially Mayan, cultural heritage, as well as of the universal cultural heritage, the Government shall, in particular, take the following measures:

(a) Create opportunities in the official media for the dissemination of expressions of indigenous culture and promote a similar opening in the private media;

(b) Promote, in the Guatemalan Congress, the reforms of the existing Act on radio communications that are required in order to make frequencies available for indigenous projects and to ensure respect for the principle of non-discrimination in the use of the communications media. Furthermore, promote the abolition of any provision in the national legislation which is an obstacle to the right of indigenous peoples to have their own communications media for the development of their identity; and

(c) Regulate and support a system of informational, scientific, artistic and educational programmes on indigenous cultures in their languages, through the national radio, television and the written media.

Implementation History

1997

No Implementation

The accord contained provisions to reform the Radio Communication Law to make radio frequencies available for indigenous communities. No major developments were reported.

1998

No Implementation

No developments observed this year.

1999

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2000

Minimum Implementation

Three community radio associations proposed legislation to grant equal access and use of radio frequencies.1

  • 1. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/973), June 1, 2001.
2001

Minimum Implementation

The Ministry of Communications, Infrastructure and Housing assigned two radio frequencies to the National Association for Communication, Culture, Art and Development and authorized it to share air time with local community groups. The community groups, however, rejected the move, arguing that it runs counter to their main objective of gaining legislative action for community radio.2

In compliance with the agreements, the television channel assigned for the Armed Forces was transferred to the Office of the President of the Republic.3

As of September 2001, provisions in the agreement to facilitate indigenous communities' access to communications media had not been implemented.4

  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. “The Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala: Overcoming Discrimination in the Framework of the Peace Agreements, Verification Report," United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), September 2001.
2002

Minimum Implementation

The accord contained provisions to reform the Radio Communication Law to make radio frequencies available for indigenous communities. Instead of making radio frequencies available for indigenous communities, the government created a public auction system for radio frequencies. As a result, the community groups were outbid by commercial operators and therefore community’s access was severely limited.5

2003

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2005

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2006

Minimum Implementation

No major developments were reported in 2006. In 2007, however, media (domestic and international) operated freely and expressed a wide variety of views without government restriction.6