Guatemala is currently enduring a political scandal that involves the murder of a whistleblowing Guatemalan lawyer named Rodrigo Rosenberg and a video that emerged on YouTube shortly after (see the bottom of this post). In the video, the lawyer predicted his assasination stating that if anybody watched the video it was because he had been murdered by corrupt government officials (and approved by president Alvaro Colom). The claims are just accusations at this point, but it has definitely created quite a stir with Guatemalans, and has started to get attention worldwide.
As the YouTube videos and transcripts spread through the internet, thousands started commenting and sharing links on social networks, resulting in a rampant protest against the government. While demonstrators started protesting outside the presidential palace in Guatemala City, others posted their outraged thoughts online.
Several Facebook groups have been created (ranging from demands for the Guatemalan president to step down, to memorials in memory of Rodrigo Rosenberg, and boycotts of a bank (Banrural) that allegedly has participated in corrupt transactions with the government). Several USTREAM videos have been recorded and streamed live from demonstrations/protests in Guatemala City.
Similarly, Twitter users have been using the #escandalogt hashtag in efforts to unite the nation and get the attention of the international community. (Note: We have been following #escandalogt since Monday night but it has not yet been become a trending topic on Twitter).
By early Tuesday May 13th, few major international media outlets had reported on the story, including the BBC and AP, but now that the police has begun to take action against those who decided to virtually fight back, the story has started to appear on other web sites and blogs such as BoingBoing and Mashable.
Earlier today, an IT professional tweeting as @jeanfer was arrested after the police broke into his home and took hold of his computer.
Jean Anleu Fernández (@jeanfer) posted several Twitter messages related to the assassinated lawyer and his thoughts on the government, but it was a tweet in which he recommended others to remove their money from the allegedly "corrupt" Banrural bank that got him behind bars with a $6,500 fine.
Newspaper Prensa Libre reported that the police claims to have made the arrest not because of the anti-government posts, but because of the "financial panic" that one of the posts created online. Such financial unsubstantiated claims are punishable by law in Guatemala.
Several people on Twitter have mentioned that the police also claims that @jeanfer had sent emails in which he stated that the bank was bankrupt, but this has not been validated, and most people appear to be very skeptical of any public announcements and releases made by the government and police dept.
Twitter users have mobilized to come up with the money to bail Jean out of jail, and donations are already being gathered via PayPal.
Freedom of speech is definitely a privilege that many around the world do not have, but the internet has become a platform for local happenings to spread through the world and create much needed awareness.
This might just be the first arrest directly related to a post on Twitter, and probably not the last.