Mine workers in Guatemala found guilty of violence against journalists

December 12, 2013

The second court for drug-related and environmental crimes in Guatemala has sentenced Juan José Reyes Carrera (subcontractor) and retired Lieutenant Paul Silas Orozco (operation manager) of Exmingua-Kappes Kassiday & Associates (KCA)- to two years in prison for violence and duress against five independent journalists.

Nelton Rivera, a member of Hivos’ partner Community Press, was one of the reporters injured in the course of covering the peaceful resistance of communities opposed to mining.

Since 2010, the Maya Kaqchikel communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc have been holding peaceful demonstrations against the construction of a gold extraction plant on their territory. In March 2012, residents set up a camp to block the mine in La Puya. Protesters occupy the mine during shifts of 24 hours to prevent the machinery from entering.

Protesters have repeatedly been victims of threats, harassment and violence by the police and miners. Yolanda Oquelí, one of the women leading the protests, was attacked on several occasions, one of which left her badly injured.

Freedom of expression in Guatemala.

In Guatemala, there has been a growing campaign to criminalize the demonstrations of the Kaqchikel communities and prosecute those who participate in or publicize them. As a result, independent journalists and community and alternative media are being penalized for covering the protests and occupation of the La Puya mine.

The sentencing of Juan José Reyes Carrera and Paul Silas Orozco is therefore an important precedent for the defense and protection of freedom of expression in Guatemala, as it also strengthens the role and position of alternative and community media.

Hivos condemns any act of intimidation against journalists and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). We believe informed citizens are crucial to the vitality of civic political culture everywhere in the world. Hivos keeps fostering a diverse media landscape by consolidating alternative media throughout Central America, a region still dominated by media conglomerates.