Guatemala: The Media's Shortcomings

In Guatemala, coverage outside of the capital city is said to be not as important for national newspapers, and because of that many stories are left uncovered. In spite of its national circulation, some newspapers choose to devote more coverage to other countries in the region. Blogger Charakotel [es] makes a detailed analysis of media, strongly criticizing the media and their coverage of rural areas:

La importancia de lo que sucede en la provincia es tal para Prensa Libre que en una misma página (la 25), arrincona acontecimientos intracendentes de cuatro distintos departamentos. Llama poderosamente la atención los contrastes que se dan al presentar las noticias departamentales de Guatemala (el diario Prensa Libre es de circulación nacional en Guatemala) y las páginas enteras a las noticias de Venezuela, a la que le dedican además el editorial del día; Bolivia y Ecuador.

The importance of what is going on in rural areas for Prensa Libre (newspaper of the capital) is such that on the same page (p.25) it compiles all the events not so relevant of four different departments. It is important to notice the contrast between the news in rural areas (Prensa Libre circulates in the whole country), and a lot of pages devoted to cover Venezuela, even the day's editorial, furthermore, more coverage is also given to Bolivia and Ecuador.

Venezuela has a special place in Guatemalan media, and is more relevant, sadly, than the things happening in rural areas, todays headlines of a newspaper, derivated on a post by Guate360 [es] titled “The head of Chavez has a price in Guate

No sabremos exactamente los detalles del plan de complot que ha llegado a las manos del gobierno de Hugo Chavez, lo que agrega incertidumbre de la visita a Guatemala en Enero próximo. ¿Un complot donde el gobierno de Estados Unidos estaría implicado? Me recuerda mucho al documental de War on Democracy.

We do not know precisely the details of the plan known by Hugo Chavez government, and now his visit to Guatemala next January is uncertain. Would this be a plan where the U.S. government might be involved? It brings to my mind the documentary War on Democracy.

But is not only the lack of news and info of the rural areas or the extra emphasis on Venezuela that concerns some bloggers, but rather the reduced spaces to spread ideas, where one must look for alternate venues. Now that many newspaper's sites enable comments from readers, there are some criticisms to how these are used. Mario Cordero of Diario Paranoico [es] on his post Freedom of Speech? [es] tells how the director of one of the most important newspapers argued with the comment left by Mario, when he stated he did not share the opinion of “the best book of the year”, and that the reaction of the director was condescending:

..En el blog “abierto” de El Periódico, envié de nuevo mi comentario a lo expresado por el señor Font, pues no me pareció justa su calificación hacia mí diciendo que, como opino distinto a él, yo ni siquiera “había leído la novela”. Lamentablemente, los censores de elPeriódico ni siquiera dejaron pasar ese comentario. En Guatemala, casi nunca nos animamos a opinar, mucho menos cuando queremos contrariar una opinión de una persona “respetable”….

On the “open” blog of El Periodico, I commented on the opinion of Mr Font, because some of his comments were not fair arguing just because we do not share opinions, that I has not read the book. Sadly, I had to add that they did not published my comment. In Guatemala we do not dare to express our opinions, especially when is contrary to the point of view of someone “respectable.”

The relationship by these “respectable” persons and individuals in government also draws scrutiny from bloggers. Some believe that politicians receive special attention from the mainstream media. Blogger Quicheleño [es] also added:

Recientemente, Prensa Libre criticó al presidente electo Alvaro Colom por haber tenido la temeridad de decir que iba a gobernar para los pobres. Ni siquiera ha llegado Colom al poder y ya le están haciendo la vida imposible. El editorial en cuestión no habría sido motivo de crítica si no fuera porque cuando en marzo del 2004 Berger dijo que el suyo era un “gobierno de empresarios” Prensa Libre no dijo nada.

Recently, Prensa Libre criticized President-elected Alvaro Colom, for daring to declare that his government was for the poor people. He had not even assumed power, and the press is giving him a hard time. The editorial would not be subject to scrutiny, but in comparison, when in March 2004, the President Berger said that his government was for businessmen, Prensa Libre did not say anything at all.

In addition, Cordero adds:

Lo verdaderamente molesto es que se creen defensores de la libertad de expresión, siempre y cuando esa expresión no vaya en contra de sus propias opiniones.

What bothers me is that the media are the guardians of freedom of expression, but only if the expressed ideas are not against their own opinions.

Bloggers are relieved to know that there are other ways to spread news and information.




  • It’s true that the main newspapers in Guatemala aren’t giving support to news from other areas of the country other than the capital, but this is just a clear opportunity for the development of new spaces.

    In Chiquimula for example, the local firemen department has a TV channel to post news and also deliver some of them trough blogs helping to spread the word. And I’m sure that this could happen in other areas so instead of the traditional old media, we’ll see a new group of bloggers and journalists developing more local choices.

  • Cvander, do you have the link to the fire department’s blog?


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