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NEW LAW UNDERMINES COMMUNITY RADIO STATIONS

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) has formally complained to the Organization of American States (OAS) that a recent Guatemalan decree threatens freedom of expression, indigenous cultural rights and peasant communities. On 8 February, the government approved a decree "to resolve the issue of illegal radio stations" that reinforces the practice of closing unlicenced community radio stations and imprisoning their operators.

AMARC's Latin America and Caribbean branches presented the complaint on 6 March 2007 to OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). AMARC said the decision "frustrates and undermines" efforts involving the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and the IACHR to legally recognise the rights of community radio stations.

In signing peace accords in 1996, the Guatemalan state promised to allow access to media by the Mayan, Xinca and Garifuna peoples. Subsequently the Special Rapporteur urged modification of the legal framework for broadcasting.

The decree also ignored a 20-month roundtable involving private and public stakeholders, who agreed on most of a bill on community radio to be presented to Congress. But AMARC and other roundtable participants say the decree completely disregarded the dialogue.

Visit the website:
- AMARC (Spanish): http://legislaciones.amarc.org/07-03-06-GuatemalaAmarcDenuncia.htm

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