Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

The change of government on January 14 was an irregular event, with the inauguration delayed by more than 12 hours. Several international delegations left the country without participating in the swearing-in ceremony.

Even after its end, the government of Alejandro Giammattei did not change its way of interacting with the press. Misinformation, attacks on journalists, and limited access to information for independent media continued.

The new president, Bernardo Arévalo, has shown signs of greater openness towards the press. On January 26, a delegation from the SIP composed of Roberto Rock, José Roberto Dutriz, Gabriela Vivanco, Carlos Martínez de la Serna (from the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ), Mario Alejandro Sandoval, and Carlos Lauría met with the president, to whom concern was expressed about journalists in exile, the trial of José Rubén Zamora, and the judicial harassment by the government against journalists and critical voices.

Arévalo indicated that his policy is open to the press and ensures access to public information. The Social Communication Secretariat of the Presidency has shown signs of fulfilling this offer of open doors. It has indicated that it will work with all media on news and advertising, hiring each medium according to its audiences.

Reporters covering sources from the Executive Power have reported to their media that access to information "returned," they could speak with sources in most departments. However, there are remnants of some practices "to keep the press away from officials."

State agencies began contacting media outlets to hire advertising spaces, with limits only related to budgets.

Regarding José Rubén Zamora, Arévalo indicated that from his first days in office, the conditions of Zamora's imprisonment improved, and he hopes for a new trial with due process. However, due to procedural errors, there is still an order for the retrial against Zamora. Judge Jimi Bremer suspended the start hearing several times, especially on March 20, because the Foundation Against Terrorism filed a challenge against him.

Gonzalo Marroquín, former president of the SIP, who was in exile but returned to the country, stated on March 20 that some journalists who left the country were trying to return. It is because an appeals chamber upheld the ruling of Judge Aurora Gutiérrez, which on January 8 determined that the eight journalists from elPeriódico, accused of making publications about the Zamora case, should face a process in a Press Tribunal, as indicated by the Constitution, and not in a criminal court, as the Public Prosecutor's Office sought.

There have been no restrictions on access to information in the provinces, but there have also been no changes towards greater openness. The Municipality of Quetzaltenango has restricted journalists' access to sessions of opposition councilors.

On December 21, journalists Gleymer Renan Villeda and César Augusto Leiva Pimentel were murdered in separate armed attacks, occurring in the localities of Izabal and Jutiapa, respectively. There has been no progress in the investigations of both cases, and it is unknown if the crimes were linked to their journalistic work.

Villeda was an administrator on Facebook for the news page Impacto Izabal, which is from Izabal. Leiva Pimentel was a broadcaster, journalist for La Red radio, and president of the Association of Broadcasters of Jutiapa.