Press freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution, but this right is constantly violated by public authorities or political actors. Journalists and media outlets who investigate or criticize acts of corruption and human rights violations frequently suffer aggression in the form of harassment campaigns and criminal prosecution.
In Guatemala there is a wide diversity of private, alternative and, to a lesser extent, public media. One of the main daily newspapers in the country is Prensa Libre and one of the oldest is La Hora. The television channels Canal 3, Guatevisión and Televisiete are among the most important. Although there are no obstacles to the creation and operation of media, the absence of a regulatory standard tailored specifically for community radio stations leads to them being frequently considered illegal and shut down. The economic crisis of recent years has caused traditional media to bet more heavily on digital content, as well as fomented the creation of independent and investigative digital media and other information platforms.
Guatemala has been going through a sociopolitical crisis for more than five years, which has worsened the aggressions against journalists critical of state authorities. The disclosure of journalistic investigations into acts of corruption, human rights violations, or illicit practices by private companies causes journalists and responsible media to be the target of multiple attacks: from smear campaigns on social networks to police harassment and criminalization, all of this with the acquiescence of the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court of Justice.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Constitution and the Law of Emission of Thought, which has constitutional rank. In 2008, Congress approved the Law on Access to Public Information to make it easier for the media and citizens to monitor the State, but this rule is repeatedly breached by public officials at various levels. In recent years there have been attempts to pass initiatives to criminalize State criticism online and public demonstrations, but these have yet to be debated in Congress. At the same time, prosecution and censorship of journalists through court rulings has continued to increase. Although only two journalists have been imprisoned so far, there is fear that the number could increase.
The economic situation continues to have repercussions on the media, which in recent years have made significant personnel cuts due to the decrease in revenue from advertising, which has also forced them to bet on digital sites and to charge a fee for access to certain content. The pandemic aggravated this situation, leading to the disappearance in print of La Hora, which exists only in a digital format now. Reporters are being forced to seek alternative sources of income while attempting to continue their journalistic work as freelancers.
Despite defamation campaigns and stigmatizing speech, the media and journalists have high credibility among citizens, mainly due to their oversight work and investigations. However, there are certain media outlets and journalists who have experienced a drop in credibility due to either their affinity with the government or their editorial line on women's rights, sexual diversity, and the defense of human rights more generally.
The security of journalists has decreased in recent years, and there are no public policies for their protection. Defamation campaigns, police harassment, and physical and verbal aggression are the main violations against journalists.