Media legislation

Journalists in Guatemala are protected by the extensive Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic, entitled “Libertad de emisión del pensamiento” (Freedom of Speech) which contemplates several scenarios of media governance. From its inception the article guarantees freedom of opinion, but the same paragraph indicates that if these comments lack respect for the dignity of a person, he/she who issued them will be held responsible in accordance with the sanctions established by the Penal Code.

The article makes an exception when it comes to public officials or employees, clarifying that any publication made against them cannot be classified as a crime. In case any person feels aggrieved by a publication, they may request a judge to convene a Tribunal de Imprenta (Printing Tribunal) made up of Guatemalans who do not work for the State, and who are elected by the Colegio de Abogados (Lawyers Association) and the Colegio de Periodistas (Journalists Association). If this court considers that the publication did damage the rights of the person, it will give off an opinion that will be sent to the judge who may continue with the trial process to emit a final judgment. These and other points are detailed in the Law of Freedom of Speech.

Personal data are protected by the Constitution; however, there are companies such as Infornet, DigiData and TransUnion that for years traded with the personal and banking information of Guatemalans. For a cost between US$1 and US$2, anyone can access a person's complete information, including their residence address, telephone numbers, debt for loans or credit cards, claims and press releases in which they were mentioned. The Constitutional Court, the highest authority in Guatemala, has repeatedly dictated that these businesses are illegal. In the face of this prohibition these companies changed their modus operandi and now ask that every query be backed with the signature of the person being investigated. Although this does not prevent that private information be consulted without consent, credit companies or hospitals oblige their clients to sign these authorisations, if not the credit or service is not provided.

In 2017 a law project was presented to consider cyber crimes as real crimes; the proposal includes the use of private information on the Internet, harassment, cyber scams and others. The law project did not continue in Congress and there is no deadline to return to the discussion or achieve its approval.