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Spanish journalist arrested in Panama over mining protest

Several dozen indigenous Panamanians armed with spears, arrows, shells and rocks clash with riot police on the outskirts of Panama City on February 18, 2011 disrupting traffic on the Pan-American Highway to protest recent changes to the country's mining law.

Spanish journalist Paco Gomez Nadal was arrested in Panama City in one of the protests staged around the country, mainly by Indian groups, against the reform of the mining law, the government said, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

“The National Police arrested foreigner Francisco Gomez Nadal at a time when he was instigating and organizing a group of citizens who were preparing to stage a protest” before the National Assembly building, the Communications Secretariat said.

The daily La Prensa, for which Gomez Nadal is a freelancer, reported on its website that the reporter, his wife – journalist Pilar Chato – and environmental activist Claudia Figueroa were arrested Saturday at a demonstration against mining in 5 de Mayo Square in the capital, in front of the National Assembly. Gomez Nadal – a human rights activist, freelancer for Spain’s El Pais and communications media consultant – was taken to a police station in the neighborhood of El Chorrillo along with Chato and other people arrested during the protest, diplomats said.

The details: [Link]

Chato, according to people who were able to speak with her, said that Gomez Nadal was at the Indian demonstration as an “observer” and coordinator in Panama for the human rights defense organization Human Rights Everywhere, but he was not participating in it. He identified himself to the policeman who confronted him and the officer asked him to turn over the camera he was carrying, whereupon Gomez Nadal refused and was subsequently arrested, an act that spurred the protests of his wife and her arrest as well.

Gomez Nadal’s participation in the demonstration “is fully documented in videos by monitoring cameras,” the Panamanian government said, adding that “foreigners are prohibited from participating in any kind of political or protest activities.”

Anyone who “makes a statement supporting crime or incites racial, religious, cultural or political hatred,” as well as people who “may be a threat to the collective security, the public health or order” can be “expelled” from the country, the government said.

Police on Saturday used tear gas to break up three demonstrations in western Panama by Indians who were protesting against the mining code reform law because they claim it threatens the natural resources in various regions of the country.

Date posted: February 28, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 310