Francisco Farinango, a journalist on indigenous community radio, Inti Pacha, who was arrested during protests against a new mining law in the Pichincha region, northern Ecuador on 20 January, was released the next day but still faces charges of “rebellion” along with two other community members arrested with him.
“Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of the journalist but once again appeals to the justice system to proceed with caution. The fact that Francisco Farinango supports the claims of his community does not rule out that he sought to do his job as a reporter during the demonstrations. The procedure should be fair and not be used to punish Inti Pacha by getting at one of its journalists”, the organisation said.
21.01.09 - Community journalist arrested during indigenous people’s protests against mining law
Reporters Without Borders today demanded an explanation from the authorities about the reasons and circumstances of the arrest yesterday of community journalist Francisco Farinango in Ñaño Loma, in the Pichincha region of northern Ecuador.
The reporter on Radio Inti Pacha was arrested with three other members of his Tupigachi community on the sidelines of nationwide demonstrations by indigenous communities against a new mining law, which locally degenerated into clashes with security forces. The capital Quito is in the Pichincha region.
Police sources cited by the national press said that the journalist had been accused of having “incited” his companions to demonstrate and would shortly appear before a court. A total of nine people were held and six others injured during the demonstration.
“An arrest against the background of a demonstration, possibly a riot, makes it difficult to check the allegation that Farinango had ‘incited’ members of his community to rise up,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“Why him in particular?” it asked. A community journalist is by his nature witness and actor in an event that affects his community, a witness who could be awkward in a crisis. We fear that the arrest of Francisco Farinango only serves to punish his media and we ask the authorities to clarify their reasons,” it said.
Indigenous communities mounted protests in nine of the countries 24 provinces on 20 January against the environmental consequences on their lands of a new law allowing open cast mining. The day was marked by some localised blocking of roads and clashes with police.
Interior minister, Fernando Bustamante, said there had been an “attempt to destabilise the country and its government”, a statement which provoked an outcry from representatives of the National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), who said they held the minister responsible for the physical wellbeing of the detainees, along with his counterpart at internal and external security, Gustavo Larrea, and the President, Rafael Correa Delgado.