Join us on Friday August 18 for a conversation with criminalized journalist Carlos Choc. Register here.

This report published on June 22, 2023, by Article 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other organizations notes: “Carlos Choc has had two arrest warrants against him and is currently under substitute measures, for which he must appear before the MP [Public Ministry] every 30 days and is prohibited from approaching the mining plant and its workers.”

His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday August 21.

Connections to North America

Choc has reported on the Fenix nickel mine now operated by the Russian-owned Swiss-based Solway Investment Group.

Toronto-based INCO Ltd. was granted a 40-year licence to establish this mine in 1965. Vancouver-based Skye Resources bought the mine from INCO in 2004. Skye Resources then merged with Toronto-based Hudbay in 2008.

The mine was purchased by Solway Investment Group in 2011.

Newsweek now reports that Montreal-based Central America Nickel (CAN) could purchase the mine with the support of the U.S. (and presumably Canadian) embassies in Guatemala.

Carlos Maaz killed at protest

Choc took the photo below of 27-year-old Maya Q’eqchi’ fisher Carlos Maaz who was shot dead on May 27, 2017, by police at a protest against the pollution of Lake Izabal by the mine.

Forbidden Stories has reported: “On the pretext that he had participated in the protest, Choc, along with a journalist colleague and five fishermen, was accused of six crimes and misdemeanors by Solway Group. An arrest warrant was submitted against him in August 2017, forcing him into hiding for several months.”

October 2021 protest at the mine

Forbidden Stories also notes: “Months of exile wasn’t punishment enough for the local journalist. When he reemerged months later, the company put him under surveillance, documents in the leak show. After Carlos Choc returned to El Estor to cover the protests in October 22-23, 2021, his house was ransacked by local security forces.”

Photo: Carlos Choc reporting on October 2021 protest.

Investigative reporting on the mine

On March 6, 2022, more than 20 media outlets, including Prensa Comunitaria Kilómetro 169, participated in the Mining Secrets investigation, coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a French organization that publishes the stories of journalists facing threats or censorship.

The investigation revealed that Solway channels money to the National Civil Police (PNC). In turn the PNC carry out evictions of Maya Q’eqchi’ communities that the mining company has identified as opponents, employing strategies that include surveillance and bribes.

Incitement charge against Choc dismissed

On March 25, 2022, just weeks after the publication of the Mining Secrets/Forbidden Stories report, Choc was informed that he was the subject of a complaint filed by 13 members of the PNC and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) on the charge of “incitement to commit a crime” in relation to the protest in October 2021.

Choc was exonerated of the incitement charge in September 2022.

Hearing on August 21

As noted above, Choc will be in court on Monday August 21 in relation to the substitute measure he was given in January 2019 on the August 2017 charges stemming from his May 2017 reporting on the police killing of Maya Q’eqchi’ fisher Carlos Maaz.

We echo the call in the Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists et al report that says the Guatemalan state must: “Defend the rule of law and ensure full respect for the independence of powers, in particular the independence of the judiciary, and put an end to its instrumentalization for the criminalization of the press and acting to ensure due process in all the cases that involve journalists.”

We also highlight that the report calls on the international community to “affirm your duty to promote and defend the rights of human beings, and continue denouncing the arbitrariness and outrages of the Guatemalan State against the independent press.”

We met Choc in Guatemala City in May and continue to follow his situation with concern.

WEBINAR, August 18

To hear Carlos Choc speak about the situation he is facing, just a few days before his next court appearance, please register for our webinar here.

Further reading: “Judicial harassment and criminal prosecution have exhausting effects”(Interview with Carlos Choc, May 3, 2023).

Published by Brent Patterson on