New York, March 2, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Panamanian government to allow two Spanish journalists and human rights activists who were expelled to return to the country. The journalists were covering and documenting an indigenous demonstration on Saturday when they were detained by authorities and accused of "disrupting public order" according to an official statement.
Francisco Gómez Nadal, a Spanish native, is a columnist at the
Panamanian national daily La Prensa and
contributor to the Spanish daily El País known for his criticism President Ricardo Martinelli's policies. A rights
activist who has been living in
Gómez Nadal and Chato were arrested Saturday in Panama City during a demonstration in front of the National Assembly by members of the indigenous group Ngäbe Buglé who were protesting reforms to a mining law, according to local and international press reports. They were covering and documenting the detention of demonstrators when they were arrested by Panamanian police, press reports said. The two reporters were detained for nearly 48 hours, in three separate detention centers, Gómez Nadal told CPJ. He said that they were accused of "disrupting public order," and harassed by authorities.
Indigenous and environmental groups throughout Panama have been staging massive protests against reforms to the mining code, approved by Martinelli in early February, according to international press reports. Agence France-Presse reported that clashes between protesters and police erupted around the country when demonstrators set up blockades along the Pan-American Highway and demanded that Martinelli reverse the legislation. The protestors claim that the reforms, which include the increase of royalties paid to mining companies, will jeopardize the environment.
On Monday, authorities said in a statement that Gómez Nadal and
Chato could be expelled from
"These expulsions set an alarming precedent for journalists in
The decision was made under pressure and intimidation by
Panamanian authorities, Gómez Nadal said. He said they will appeal the decision
before local courts. The Panamanian government has justified the repatriation
by saying that "foreigners are prohibited from participating in all types of
political activities or protests," the Spanish news agency EFE reported. Gómez
and Chato arrived in
Gómez Nadal said he believes that he has been targeted for his
activism on indigenous rights and his criticism in La Prensa, he told CPJ. In July 2010, Gómez Nadal was detained for
a few hours at