New telecommunications law takes effect in Guatemala restricting community radio

The president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, approved the reform to the General Telecommunications law, which extends leases on the current broadcast spectrum for another 20 years and weakens indigenous groups' access to radio frequencies, according to the newspaper Prensa Libre on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

The new law went into effect despite protest from the opposition and the United Nations' Guatemala office, according to the newspaper Siglo 21.

Two legislators requested the president veto the changes to the telecommunications law, which proposes punishing people who use radio frequencies without permission from the Telecommunications Superintendency, reported Siglo 21.

Deputy Almícar Pop of the Transparency Commission gave three reasons to abandon the law: first, lessees will not pay the State for the use of the spectrum; second, because the United Nations recommended democratizing the broadcast spectrum; and third, because there is already a judicial order guaranteeing media access to indigenous communities, reported elPeriódico.

The 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords established the elimination of radio and television monopolies in favor of communitarian radio, which drives development in indigenous communities, Anselmo Xunic, a representative from the organization Cultural Survival, told the Center for Investigative Reporting in Guatemala. The Guatemalan government has yet to comply with this requirement, according to the organization.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.