Rejection of any attack on free expression

The hostility of governments towards criticism and denunciations by the independent press is not new. The eagerness for praise, flattery and promotion of works – even if it is only the beginning of the project – is a constant obsession of successive governments, which waste time and opportunity cost in wielding claims: firstly, because they conduct them efficiently and with probity. public management is their simple and straightforward obligation, established in the law; second, because to occupy positions of popular election, the authorities ran freely, even repeatedly, with campaign offers that become the logical reference to deduce results.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2021 report on Guatemala highlights the aggressive rhetoric, false accusations and little progress in the investigation into threats and attacks against journalists, which have also been denounced and roundly rejected by local entities, such as the Association of Journalists. Guatemala, or international, such as the Inter-American Press Association.

« The government’s verbal attacks against journalists became more frequent and blatant after the covid-19 began to spread in Guatemala, » denounces HRW, which in its report synthesizes the resistance or discomfort of the current government to provide information on issues of interest literally vital for citizens, during the pandemic, especially in relation to the administration of resources destined to patient care, the provision of quantity and quality of hospital supplies, cost and use of diagnostic tests, and, lately, the management of vaccine procurement, the delay of which denotes little planning.

Answers with sarcasm, questions to avoid questioning, discursive victimizations and delays usually carried out by state public relations are just the tip of an iceberg of resistance to the journalistic requirement. Unfortunately there have been cases of direct physical attacks; The most recent occurred on February 4, when an as yet unidentified member of the Communications Minister’s security committee, Josué Edmundo Lemus, attacked Prensa Libre correspondent Héctor Cordero when he was consulting the official on aspects of his management. There was no official statement of rejection, much less search or identification of the aggressor.

Attempts to deny free access to information sources are not exclusive to the Executive. Also in Congress an attempt is made to limit this right. Last November, the initiative of the deputy Alejandro de León Maldonado to create a public information institute, in order to centralize the provision of data, which would create a bureaucratic funnel, ideal to hinder applications, was transcended. With this maneuver, the oversight of compliance with the current Access to Information Law would be withdrawn from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and would be reserved by Congress itself, which would nominate the head of such a ridiculous entity.

The authorities may want to dismiss HRW’s claims, but this is done with actions and not with speeches or statements. A good opportunity for State agencies to demonstrate their willingness to inform the public about their actions is in the momentous process of nomination and appointment of CC magistrates, which is handled with absolute secrecy by Congress and the Presidency.