Maya K’iche’ journalist Anastasia Mejía arrested in Guatemala for reporting on protest

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo by Carlos Choc, Prensa Comunitaria.

On November 1, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project shared this La Hora article: Periodista Anastasia Mejía: No me van a callar. The headline translates as: Journalist Anastasia Mejía: They will not shut me up.

In that article, Mejía says: “They will not silence me, thanks to everyone’s support, they will not silence me. For more than 500 years of repression, I am not going to shut up.”

In August, Mejía live-streamed on Facebook a protest in which people in Joyabaj raided the town hall and tossed furniture and documents onto the street in opposition to the mayor’s proposed relocation of the town market and for his alleged favouritism in the distribution of government support packages during the pandemic.

An article by Iñigo Alexander in NACLA further explains: “The National Police detained Mejía on September 22 and charged her with sedition, aggravated attack, arson, and aggravated robbery. …For 37 days, Mejía was held in detention at a women’s prison on the outskirts of Quetzaltenango, a small city in Western Guatemala. …Additionally, Mejía was forced to spend a night at the men’s prison of Santa Cruz del Quiché, after the state penitentiary’s transport reportedly left her and fellow detainees behind. “

“A day after her hearing [that was held on October 28], local organizations raised the funds to pay for her bail [USD $2,567], and Mejía was released from the detention center and placed under house arrest for [three] months.”

Her next hearing is not scheduled until January 11, 2021.

NACLA adds: “She is the latest in a series of Indigenous journalists criminalized for their work. Many journalists have been arrested, threatened, and murdered. Public officials openly criticize journalists and consider them ‘guilty by association’ for reporting on protest movements.”

Natalie Southwick, Central and South America Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, says: “What we’ll often see is that rural or Indigenous reporters that are covering protests, confrontations, or conflicts will get lumped in with whatever actions are going on there, and then they’ll be facing ridiculous charges.”

And Miguel Ángel Albizures, President of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists, says: “The State of Guatemala was founded on three pillars which remain practically intact: discrimination, racism and exclusion. The fact that she’s Indigenous has a large part to play, it’s an eminently racist attitude which has resulted in her imprisonment.”

PBI first operated an accompaniment project in Guatemala from 1983-1999, which closed following the Peace Accords. Unfortunately, the human rights situation soon began again to deteriorate, and local organizations asked PBI to return.

The current PBI-Guatemala Project opened in 2003.

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