Gómez Nadal and Pilar Chato, journalists with Panamanian national daily La Prensa and contributor to the Spanish daily El País, were arrested Saturday in Panama City during a demonstration in front of the National Assembly by members of the indigenous group Ngäbe Buglé who were protesting reforms to a mining law, according to local and international press reports. They were covering and documenting the detention of demonstrators when they were arrested by Panamanian police, press reports said. The two reporters were detained for nearly 48 hours, in three separate detention centers, Gómez Nadal told CPJ. He said that they were accused of “disrupting public order,” and harassed by authorities.
Indigenous and environmental groups throughout Panama have been staging massive protests against reforms to the mining code, approved by Martinelli in early February, according to international press reports. Agence France-Presse reported that clashes between protesters and police erupted around the country when demonstrators set up blockades along the Pan-American Highway and demanded that Martinelli reverse the legislation. The protestors claim that the reforms, which include the increase of royalties paid to mining companies, will jeopardize the environment.
On Monday, authorities said in a statement that Gómez Nadal and Chato could be expelled from Panama for posing a threat to public order, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. Later that day, the journalists accepted voluntary repatriation instead of deportation and left the country for Spain.