CPJ presented its 2021 International Press Freedom Award to Guatemalan journalist Anastasia Mejía.
Mejía is a radio journalist based in Joyabaj, a town in the central Guatemalan department of Quiché. In 2013, she co-founded Xolabaj Radio, a community outlet that covers local issues in Quiché. After the other co-founders left the outlet, she became its sole owner and director. In 2017, she added Xolabaj TV, which publishes live and recorded video content on the outlet’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. The outlets aim to provide a platform for women, particularly Indigenous women, to exercise their right to free expression and cover the stories and issues that affect their lives.
In September 2020, Guatemalan police arrested Mejía on criminal charges, including sedition and arson, connected to her coverage of a demonstration against the mayor of Joyabaj the previous month. She was held in pretrial detention for five weeks before being released on house arrest. Today, her journalistic work is severely restricted.
CPJ reported on Mejía’s case and advocated alongside our partners for her release the entire time she was in detention. “They are not going to silence me,” Mejía told CPJ in April. “We are the voice, the feeling, and the hope of the people.”
Honoring Mejía with this award provides powerful recognition of the vital role that Guatemala’s Indigenous reporters play in keeping their communities informed. It also helps to keep the international spotlight on the increasingly challenging conditions for journalists in Guatemala, where an already-difficult environment for the press was exacerbated by the pandemic. In March 2020, CPJ published a special report that highlighted how the new president, Alejandro Giammattei, should seize the opportunity and reverse years of declining press freedom.