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Jerson Antonio Xitumul Morales

Prensa Comunitaria

Jerson Antonio Xitumul Morales es defensor de derechos humanos y periodista en Prensa Comunitaria. Recientemente él cubría la situación en El Estor, donde la comunidad indígena Maya-Q'eqchi' se opone a los efectos de las actividades mineras en la región que están contaminando el lago Izabal y sus alrededores, afectando a las comunidades y poniendo en peligro su sustento. El periodista estaba documentando la contaminación y apoyando a las comunidades en su esfuerzo por proteger su territorio.

Since Otto Pérez Molina assumed the role of President in January 2012, cases of harassment and threats against HRDs have been on the rise. Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Guatemala are subjected to death threats, physical attacks, acts of harassment, surveillance, stigmatisation, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance and killings. Many of the violations are carried out by clandestine security structures and illegal groups. The exceptionally high level of impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators increases the risk exponentially for HRDs.

A serious issue is the unfair use of criminal proceedings in order to prevent HRDs from carrying out their legitimate human rights activities. Many criminal proceedings are launched by private companies (often backed by European and North American governments) related to the mining sector and the construction of dams, spuriously accusing HRDs of crimes such as acts of terrorism, usurpation of land, kidnappings and others. As part of the criminalisation process, campaigns of defamation and stigmatisation have been carried out by both state and non-state actors, particularly transnational companies and right-wing media publications. State authorities continue to publish statements and press releases in which they publicly incriminate HRDs on unverified charges.