Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

This period has been characterized by attempts by various members of society to silence press freedom. Among those attempts there stand out lawsuits by President Jimmy Morales and former presidential candidate Sandra Torres, and attempts of the Electoral Supreme Tribunal to regulate the transmission of electoral information.

The Electoral Supreme Tribunal sought to limit access to information and free speech. In mid-March there was created an agreement that regulated the manner in which the press could cover candidates to public offices and/or hold forums and questionings about the same. It then sought to prohibit the use of cell phones to members of each vote reception board, the attorneys of political parties and designated bailiffs, indicating that prior to the scrutiny of the votes all the mentioned persons would have to deposit their cell phones and any electronic apparatus that could transmit information. The objective, they said, was to maintain secrecy and the prevention of regrettable incidents. Both actions were then rejected and did not have validity.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) denounced the growth of "net centers," used for the distribution of "false news and hate messages." It was determined that they are found in three cities: Guatemala City, Quetzaltenango and Cobán. This tool is also used against journalists and opinion and religious leaders.

The Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG) complained that President Morales and Congressmen such as Felipe Alejos and Álvaro Arzú Escobar, Congress speaker, use joint tactics to avoid critical journalists being able to be at their press conferences.

Former presidential candidate Sandra Torres used the Feminism Law to defend herself from investigations against her. She submitted a denunciation against the president of elPeriódico, José Rubén Zamora, the editors of the National, Sports, Culture, Photography, Investigation and Design sections, as well as the media's sales manager. A Feminism jury rejected the lawsuit and the Second Court of Appeal ordered the newspaper not to write anything about her.

Torres took a step back and elPeriódico did not stop covering the former candidate. Torres did not win the presidency in the elections, she lost her immunity and was arrested in early September on charges of non-reported electoral financing and illicit association. She remains in detention in the Mariscal Zavala jail awaiting resolution.

President Morales submitted without success an appeal in a criminal court which rejected awareness of his lawsuit against citizen Roberto Rimola for having insulted him at a public event. The accusation is for slander and defamation. The proceedings must be held in the Print Tribunal accordinfg to what is established in the Law on Issuance of Thought.

The Constitutionality Court ruled in favor of the publication of opinion polls regarding the presidential candidates within 48 hours prior to the general elections. This decision came from an action of unconstitutionality presented by the Chamber of News Media of Guatemala against several articles of the Electoral Law and of Political Parties that was changing said publication to 15 days prior to the election.