Film makers seized by police

28 April 2017

On 21 April, Jen Moore from the organization Canada Mining Watch and journalist John Dougherty from the United States were detained by police in the city of Cuzco for alleged infringements to visa regulations and for “altering the public order”.

The detention took place shortly after they attended the public screening of a documentary made by Dougherty which highlighted, from the perspective of communities affected by mining operations, some of the issues relating to the way in which the Canadian mining company Hudbay operates in four countries across the Americas: Canada, the United States, Guatemala and Peru. The screening was co-hosted by the Cuzco-based human rights organisation Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras.

Moore and Dougherty were finally released at midnight on 21 April, following four hours in police custody. The charges against them still stand, however. According to a public statement made by the ministry of the interior, the two entered the country as tourists, a status that bars them from carrying out work or any income-generating activity. Screening the film about the environmental record of mining company Hudbay was thus officially construed as ‘work’.

The two were also deemed to be involved in “inciting people from different localities and peasant communities against Canadian mining activity in Peru, in particular against the Constancia mine of Hudbay”.

The documentary, which includes footage about Constancia, contains testimonies related to the social protests that took place in 2014 against the mining operations. These arose because of environmental and social concerns around the effects of the mine, particularly in relation to water provision.

In an interview with the publication Mongabay Latam, Moore recalls that in the days prior to their detention, during their visit to communities in Chumbivilcas, she and Dougherty had been under constant surveillance. They were there to screen the documentary to locals as a token of gratitude for their help in making the film. They were accompanied by representatives from Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras and Cooperacción. The two have now left Peru. Moore indicated that their lawyers will challenge the charges of “altering public order”.

Human rights organizations are concerned about the implications of this case. They see the detention and the charges as a dangerous precedent that may deter journalists and activists pursuing entirely legitimate activities, thus curtailing freedom of expression. For Juan Carlos Ruiz from the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), quoted by Cooperacción, the real question is “whether the condition of being a foreign journalist diminishes and limits the right to freedom of opinion and diffusion as laid out in Art. 2.4 of the [Peruvian] Constitution”.

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