Photographer arrested during anti-dam protest in Chile

Photographer Marcela Rodíguez, a correspondent for Mapuexpress, was arrested while covering a May 13 protest in the southern Chilean city of Temuco against the construction of new hydroelectric dams, Periodistas en Español reports.

Mapuexpress, an online news operation organized by the indigenous Mapuche peoples – many of whom oppose dam projects that will flood their land – said its reporter was documenting a peaceful protest when she was arrested: “The reporter spent all night at the police station, received ill treatment, was handcuffed, abused, and charged with disorderly conduct.”

Radio Bío Bío reports that prosecutors are asking for 300 days in prison and a fine for those who were arrested, while the photographer has filed a mistreatment and abuse of power complaint against the police.

In a similar case, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about government censorship of documentary filmmaker Elena Varela, who was recording “Newen Mapuche,” a movie about the environmental issues and land conflicts involving the indigenous peoples in southern Chile. According to RSF, Varela was arrested while shooting the documentary in 2008 and was not acquitted until April 2010. The government has now refused to help fund the film’s distribution, saying it “would harm the country’s image.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.