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Training of Autochtonous Community Journalists to Broaden Media Participation

Year when project approved: 

Guatemala is a multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural nation that is still emerging from and struggling with the legacy of its 36-year civil war. The inequities and discrimination that helped fuel the repression of the war years still affect the country, particularly in the autochthonous highlands provinces that bore the brunt of the civil conflict. In part as a result, Guatemala suffers from the world's third most unequal distribution of wealth, with poorly developed and underfunded public education, especially in rural, autochthonous areas. Roughly 60 % of Guatemalans are autochthonous, with 24 distinct local languages. While Guatemala's national media are relatively free in their coverage of issues centred on the capital, the concentration of most print and television programming restricts media pluralism. The Quetzalteco, an emerging daily in the highlands capital of Quetzaltenango (circ. 20 000), is the most prominent locally-produced paper in the highlands and employs a large number of autochthonous editors and reporters; its editors plan to broaden its coverage and subscription base to other highlands provinces over the next year. Local radio network Emisoras Unidas plays an influential role in radio news coverage across the country, and increasingly autochthonous journalists are able to report stories of local interest from autochthonous areas, and have their coverage carried nationwide in Spanish through this network. Community radio stations in local languages allow access to media in the 24 autochthonous linguistic communities. By and large, however, autochthonous journalists are underrepresented in the major national media, and many need skills training to be able to move into positions of greater prominence. Overall, media standards in Guatemala are low, and without professional training, the quality of reporting is uneven. This training project will focus on developing the skills of autochthonous journalists, focused especially on radio and, to a lesser extent, print reporters. As noted above, there are increasing opportunities for autochthonous reporters and editors to access and influence the national Guatemalan media, especially those with solid training in radio and print reporting techniques and in professional journalism practices. While autochthonous Guatemalans comprise many of the reporters in media outlets in the highlands provinces, few have ever had any professional training and many have had limited formal education. Providing practical journalism training through targeted workshops will help autochthonous journalists better represent the interests of their communities in national media.

Project details
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Ajb'atz Enlace Quiche, Santa Cruz del Quiche
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The departments of Quiche, Quetzaltenango and Huehuetenango
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