In her annual report for 2013 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticised certain decisions of the Guatemalan government concerning the protection of HRDs. The report indicates that “the Body for the Analysis of Attacks against Human Rights Defenders[1]  had lost profile. The representatives of the participating institutions were replaced by technical staff, leading to the decision of some CSOs to withdraw from the mechanism”.[2]

Moreover, Guatemalan CSOs and HRDs continued to denounce the stigmatisation faced by HRDs and raised concerns about a pattern of increasing levels of physical attacks and threats against HRDs in the country over the past five years.[3] An increase in the number of physical attacks against journalists and in particular the successive murders of four of them mobilised several local associations of journalists to raise the awareness of the government and international community concerning  the safety of the profession.[4] As a result, at the end of November 2013, the government committed to the creation of a protection mechanisms for journalists.[5] The proposal envisages the creation of a special body responsible for receiving complaints and ensuring that judicial investigations take place, in order to guarantee the security of journalists. Finally, it provides a list of preventive protection measures for journalists;[6] This mechanism is one of the commitments entered into by the Guatemalan state within the framework of the October 2012 Universal Periodic Review (UPR).[7]

At the time this report was being prepared the implementation process remained slow, following the establishment of the protection system’s High Level Round Table and the Technical Round Table in February 2014 and the appointment of  a coordinator in mid-2014. The objective of the round tables is to prepare a project for the Guatemalan journalist protection mechanism.

The members of the round tables are drawn from the Social Communications Secretariat of the Presidential Office, the Prosecuting Authorities (Ministerio Público), the Human Rights Inspector’s Office (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos) and the Presidential Human Rights Commission of Guatemala (COPREDEH in Spanish). Its role is to prepare a project for the establishment of a mechanism to provide protection to journalists in Guatemala. The round tables receive technical accompaniment from the OHCHR and UNESCO.[8]

PI in Guatemala

On 30 September 2014 the OHCHR in Guatemala invited PI to participate in an international seminar on mechanisms for the protection of journalists. The session gathered together over 80 State officials and representatives of local journalists and HRDs. PI actively contributed to the discussions by sharing its experience in the field of public policies for the protection of HRDs and journalists in other countries and issued recommendations on this matter to the Guatemalan authorities and CSO representatives involved in the process.

[1] For an explanation of the functions of the Analytical Bodies see Focus Report, 2013. op. cit. p. 9.

[2] UN High Commissioner. “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala” A/HRC/25/19/Add.1. § 49. p. 12.

[3] Human Rights Brief. “Situation of human rights defenders in Guatemala”. 1 November 2013.

[4] Reporters Without Borders. “Another Journalist Shot Dead in Guatemala, Fourth this Year”. 20 August 2013; Ileana Alamilla. “Informe de la Oacnudh”. Prensa Libre. 2 April 2014; UNESCO. “Las cosas no pueden seguir así. Implementando el Plan de Acción sobre la seguridad de periodistas y la cuestion de la impunidad”. 7 November 2013.

[5] Government of Guatemala, Social communication secretariat of the Presidency. “Guatemala se suma a implementación de plan de protección para periodistas. 28 November 2013.

[6] Government of Guatemala, Social communication secretariat of the Presidency. “Propuesta de programa de protección al periodista”, 28 november 2013.

[8] The United Nations offered to support the initiative through UNESCO – given its role as the implementing UN agency of the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. “UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”. CI-12/CONF.202/6; UNESCO. “Guatemala launches a proposed mechanism for the protection of journalists”. 29 November 2013.