On Tuesday, the Puerto Barrios Criminal Court ordered the release of community journalist Carlos Choc, who had been wrongly accused of instigating violence during a demonstration against a transnational company.
Judge Anibal Arteaga dismissed the accusations that 13 National Civil Police (PNC) agents had filed against the journalist and 11 fishermen. The agents claimed to have been physically attacked by them during a demonstration in the El Estor municipality in October 2021.
At that time, the Indigenous communities were stationed on the road for several weeks to protest against President Alejandro Giammattei and the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN), which is a subsidiary of the Swiss mining company Solway Investment Group.
During the demonstration, Choc photographed when the Guatemalan security forces brutally repressed the villagers, who blocked the road to reject "Fenix", the largest active open pit mine in the country.
At that time, the mine's activities had been suspended by the Constitutional Court due to irregularities in its exploitation license. This was previously denounced by the Indigenous authorities.
The @intercept recently documented how Skye Resources, a Canadian mining company, terrorized Indigenous communities in Guatemala in an effort to expel them from a huge swath of land that the company never had any legal right to either explore or exploit.https://t.co/HpCuYUUwLm— Dimitri Lascaris (@dimitrilascaris) May 10, 2021
"On Oct. 22, over a thousand policemen and soldiers were trying to clear the road to let the trucks from the mine pass... After noon, the police started throwing tear gas canisters to evict people and even entered the houses," Prensa Comunitaria recalled.
"Children and the elderly were intoxicated by the attack and had to be taken to the health center to receive medical care... The police soon drew their firearms. From the first moment, Choc and other journalists they broadcast everything live," it added.
"Since January 2022 I have not been able to carry out my work as a journalist, nor move freely. I am very grateful to my lawyers," Choc said as he left the hearing at the Puerto Barrios Court.
This is not, however, the first time this Prensa Comunitaria journalist has been persecuted for carrying out his work. In 2017, Carlos Choc, another journalist, and 10 fishermen were also criminally charged.
At that time, the Indigenous peoples were protesting the contamination of "Izabal", the largest lake in Guatemalan territory. During the demonstration, Choc photographed the exact moment when a fisherman died from a shot fired by State security agents. Five years after this event, the criminal investigation continues without any progress.
#FromTheSouth News Bits | Mexico and Guatemala hold XXI meeting on border issues. pic.twitter.com/0fC5P4jeBZ— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) September 13, 2022
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