Bogotá, September 14, 2023—Venezuelan authorities must immediately release freelance environmental journalist Luis Alejandro Acosta and drop all criminal charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On September 8, security forces detained Acosta while he was reporting on illegal gold mining in the remote Yapacana National Park in southern Venezuela, according to news reports and Marco Ruíz, general secretary of the Venezuela Press Workers Union.
On Tuesday, September 12, public prosecutors charged Acosta with promoting and inciting illegal mining, being in a protected area, and abetting criminal acts.
“The Venezuelan authorities must release Luis Alejandro Acosta at once and drop all charges against him,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s program coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, in São Paulo. “It is outrageous that a journalist doing his job should be subjected to such embarrassment by his country’s authorities.”
Acosta reports on environmental issues in southern Amazonas state, which includes the national park, and publishes reports and videos on his personal Facebook, which has 4,900 followers.
Acosta had been reporting on military operations against illegal mining in the area when he was detained, according to a September 10 thread by the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP).
“He was reporting on his own in a risky area,” Ruíz told CPJ via WhatsApp. “All the evidence suggests that he was arrested for his journalism.”
Carlos Correa, director of the Caracas-based free-speech organization Espacio Público, told CPJ by phone that Venezuelan troops have been accused of abuses and corruption in their crackdown on illegal miners and that “for the military, it would be very uncomfortable to have someone like Acosta reporting on what they’re doing.”
CPJ’s emailed request for comment to the press department of the Attorney General’s office in Caracas did not receive a response.
CPJ has recently documented a range of threats or attacks on journalists covering illegal mining and other environmental issues in the region.