Our Voices

Worrying suspension of hearing: Delays persist in the criminalization of community journalist Carlos Choc in Guatemala

The Center for Legal Action on Human Rights (CALDH), Protection International, Article 19, Freedom House, Free Press Unlimited, Reporters Without Borders, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, we express our concern at the regrettable postponement of the hearing scheduled for the past Thursday December 7, 2023, by Judge Fabián De León Pérez, of the Criminal Court of Izabal, Guatemala. Both the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) and the Center for Legal Action on Human Rights (CALDH) had requested the case’s dismissal, but the hearing has been postponed again.

Since 2017, this is the sixth rescheduling of the hearing in this case as part of a strategy to wear down and criminalize journalist Carlos Choc. Even though Carlos is displaced due to security concerns for both him and his family, he must go to the Public Prosecutor’s Office once a month, and he must endure the emotional, economic, and professional costs that come with resisting an unfounded legal process against him for more than six years. This has plunged Choc into a continuous state of anguish and uncertainty.

Carlos Choc is a respected Maya Q’eqchi’ community journalist who worked for Prensa Comunitaria and is now an independent journalist. Mr. Choc has been facing threats for years due to his investigations into the Fénix mine in El Estor, in the department of Izabal. In 2017, he documented the murder of fisherman Carlos Maaz Coc at the hands of the Guatemalan National Police during a protest against the mine. In August of the same year, the mining company denounced Choc and others, resulting in an arrest warrant issued by Judge Arteaga in January 2019, with measures that have prevented him from carrying out his journalistic work efficiently.

According to the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, Guatemala is ranked 127th out of 180, indicating a challenging environment for freedom of expression. Prominent features include the continual criminalization and stigmatization of journalists and media, especially when investigating corruption or human rights violations. This situation is part of an institutional crisis that has persisted in the country for several years, further intensified by the recent presidential elections held in August. Following these elections, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has unleashed a massive wave of criminalization processes, as highlighted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Carlos Choc’s case makes part of this grave context of persecution and criminalization directed by Guatemalan authorities against individuals like him who contribute through their work to the defense of democracy, transparency, and the fight against impunity.

In this serious context, it is more urgent than ever to demand the judiciary in Guatemala to stop delaying the unfounded legal process against Carlos and to dismiss the case as requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Carlos’s legal representation. We also urge the international community to remain vigilant in this case, sharing this information on social networks and with allies.

For more information on the Carlos Choc case and other emblematic cases for civic space, please visit the Civic Space Case-tracker (here).