PBI-Canada conversation with Maya Q’eqchi’ frontline journalist Carlos Ernesto Choc

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On August 18, Maya Q’eqchi’ journalist Carlos Ernesto Choc spoke with PBI-Canada coordinator Brent Patterson about the criminalization he is experiencing, his commitment to frontline journalism, and the current political situation in Guatemala.

Ninety-nine people from around the world registered for this webinar, with viewers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Morocco, Guatemala and Canada listening to the conversation.

Carlos told us:

– “I never imagined that I would be criminalized. I never imagined it would reach the point where I would have two criminal cases against myself because of my journalistic work.”

– “When I saw my name and the order from the judge and the judge’s signature and stamp, I thought this is a dream, this is a nightmare. I went home and I cried silently without anyone seeing me. I am a journalist, not a criminal.”

– “There were five charges were pressed against me and others for illicit actions, threats, instigating criminal action, illegal protests and meetings, damage and illegal detentions.”

– “My life has taken a radical term because of these charges, but I feel strong. I will continue investigating and doing my work as a journalist. Something woke up inside me.”

– “The objective of the Guatemalan state in complicity with the mine was to censure the press, alternative journalism, and to put them in prison.”

– “I have suffered assassination attempts, people who were shooting in front of my home, there were also unidentified people who went into my home and took my journalistic equipment, my cameras, my lenses, everything you use as a journalist.”

– “My lawyers have just written me, they are obviously watching very closely everything in the electoral era that we are experiencing right now, that the hearing [that had been scheduled for Monday August 21] has been suspended.”

– “The Public Ministry for years now has been a tool, used by the government, as an instrument by the transnational foreign companies, they criminalize innocent people.”

– “We have achieved international pressure with the government through human rights organizations like PBI and lawyers’ collective, with my colleagues, frontline journalists.”

– “The mine is not operating currently. Its operations have been suspended. But there are some rumours that there is interest from other countries such as Canada and from the United States that want to get involved. The Swiss mine has said it wants to continue operations.”

– “I am afraid for my life, I am afraid for my security, my well-being, and I hope that the criminal prosecution will end.”

– “The international community has an important role to play.”

– “I remember in Ireland there was a festival where they had scholarships and awards but when civil society heard about the human rights violations and they realized that the nickel is not clean and all the impacts of extracting nickel, one of these festivals that was carried out by the nickel companies, civil society said no, you are murderers. So I think these types of actions, as well as making public statements, statements from individuals and organizations, as well as accompaniment from these organizations are very important to make advances.”

– “My next hearing may be in November.”

We continue to follow this situation, and we will watch to see particularly if this process continues against Carlos later this year.

For additional background: Maya Q’eqchi’ journalist Carlos Choc to appear in court on August 21 for his reporting on the Fenix mine in Guatemala (August 3, 2023)

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