Guatemala: 51 Signatories Call For Authorities To Drop Criminal Charges Against Indigenous Journalist Anastasia Mejía

January 7, 2021 - The undersigned individuals and organizations call on Guatemalan authorities to immediately drop all criminal charges against Indigenous Guatemalan radio journalist Anastasia Mejía Tiriquiz, who faces a criminal trial after being held in arbitrary pre-trial detention for more than a month.

Guatemalan Civil Police arrested Mejía on September 22 for allegedly participating in an August 24 demonstration by a group of residents in the municipality of Joyabaj, Quiché, in central Guatemala. Mejía, a member of the Maya K’iche’ community and director of the radio station Xol Abaj Radio and Xol Abaj TV, had reported live on the events on Xol Abaj TV’s Facebook page.

She faces charges of sedition and aggravated attack and was held at a detention center in Quetzaltenango for five weeks after her arrest, exposing her to the additional risk of contracting COVID-19 in the detention facility. Although Guatemalan law establishes that an initial hearing must take place within 24 hours after an individual is arrested, her hearing was set for October 8, more than two weeks after her arrest. A judge then pushed back the already-overdue hearing to October 28, to allow for “further investigation of evidence,” and leaving Mejía to spend more than a month in arbitrary pre-trial detention before even a preliminary hearing, putting her health at grave risk amid a global pandemic. On October 28, a judge released Mejía to house arrest after she paid a $2,500 bond, but ruled the criminal proceedings against her could move forward.

Community media outlets like Xol Abaj play a critical role in ensuring Guatemala’s Indigenous communities can access information, a right guaranteed in the Guatemalan Constitution and protected under Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The outlet is also an example of inclusivity in journalism: Xol Abaj radio broadcasts in both Spanish and K'iche’, and most of its reporters are women.

While Article 35 of the Guatemalan Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, in practice many Guatemalan journalists contend with systematic censorship and harassment. Guatemala’s rural and Indigenous journalists in particular face greater risk of discrimination and threats from criminal groups and local officials, especially when reporting on topics like land rights, environmental issues or corruption. Community radio stations also face significant barriers in obtaining licenses, leaving many with no choice but to operate unofficially, which exposes their journalists to potential criminal investigations or detention during raids.

Mejía faces serious criminal charges simply for doing her job and keeping her community informed. The disproportionate charges and erratic judicial process seem aimed less at justice than toward intimidating community journalists like Mejia, discouraging them from important reporting on under-documented communities and leading to even greater self-censorship.

The arrest, excessive detention and criminal prosecution of Anastasia Mejía is a clear attack on freedom of expression and the public's right to access information. Journalists are not criminals, and a free press is not dangerous. We call on Guatemalan authorities to drop the outrageous charges against Mejía immediately.


Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, United Kingdom

Andrea Carrillo Samayoa, La Cuerda, Guatemala

ARTICLE 19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica

Asociación Cambiando Vidas, Guatemala

Asociación Centro Civitas, Guatemala

Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala (APG), Guatemala

Dr. Catherine Nolin, Guatemala Research Group, University of Northern BC, Canada

Ceren İskit, CFWIJ, Turkey

The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Damla Tarhan, CFWIJ, Turkey

Daniela García Flores, Guatemala

Derechos Digitales, América Latina

Edgar A. Loarca M., Guatemala

Espacio Público, Venezuela

Free Press Unlimited, The Netherlands

Fundación Datos Protegidos, Chile

Fundación Huaira, Ecuador

Fundamedios, International

Gabriel Wer, Guatemala

Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (ICLEP), Cuba

Instituto DEMOS, Guatemala

Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), Peru

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) - Latin America, Argentina

International Press Institute, Austria

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), United States

International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), United States

James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, United States

Javier Estrada, Periodista independiente, Guatemala

Jenny Rönngren, Feministiskt Perspektiv, Sweden

Julie López, Freelance journalist, Guatemala

Katarzyna Mierzejewska, Engagement Coordinator, CFWIJ, Switzerland

Luis Soto, Guatemala

Mardoqueo Eliezer Vásquez Us, Guatemala

Marta Gomez, United States

Nelton Rivera, Prensa Comunitaria, Guatemala

Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión (OLA), Peru

Osmar Eduardo Sarazua Saravia, Guatemala

PEN America, United States

PEN International

Peter Lauterbach, Germany

Pia Flores, Guatemala

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Rory Peck Trust, United Kingdom

Samuel Oajaca, Guatemala

Silvia C. Rodriguez, Aim Karem, Guatemala

Silvia Lilian Trujillo, La Cuerda, Guatemala

Stef Arreaga, Periodista Independiente, Guatemala

Taha Siddiqui, Editor-in-Chief, South Asia Press, France

Thelma Aldana, Lawyer and Notary Public, United States

Syria Solidarity UK, United Kingdom

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Mise à jour le 07.01.2021