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Policeman roughs up journalist

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

Wednesday’s rallies in Orange Walk did not go without incident. A senior media representative, Krem’s News Director, Marisol Amaya, was assaulted and dragged away by a policeman while conducting an interview.
The policeman grew impatient when the media representatives, who were in the middle of an interview with protesters, did not immediately move away upon instruction. The incident, captured by one cellphone camera by Lavoz Corozal, shows the officer dragging Amaya away, making her fall to the ground in the process. Witnesses say a policeman also tried to strike Amaya in the back with a police baton, but a cameraman who was nearby extended his arm and took the blow for her.

Amaya, on her Facebook page, explained: “I was roughed up by police while covering the PUP’s blockade of the Tower Hill Bridge…I was not hit (although some around me say a cop made as if he would hit me with his baton and a cameraman blocked it.) I was on the ground and did not see as much. But what I can say is that I was hauled off the street by cops.” Amaya suffered injuries for which she has sought medical attention.
The incident has raised the ire of other media colleagues, who at a press conference with the Minister for Police, Elodio Aragon, pressed him and senior police officers over the incident. Nuri Muhammed, the general manager of Krem TV, has formally recorded the station’s disgust to the Minister about the way Amaya was treated “for simply covering the news.”
Kremandala issued a statement late Thursday evening, denouncing the incident. The organization’s release states that after careful review of the video recordings and interviews with eyewitnesses, the incident was “indicative of the violence experienced by women on a daily basis in Belize.” Kremandala pointed to the fact that Amaya was the only female media representative present during that interview when she was hauled off. The other members were all males.

The release also notes the way the policeman, Commander of the Special Patrol Unit, Inspector Aaron Gamboa dragged Amaya and “indecently” grappled her in the process. It makes mention that the police never approached her and told or asked her to move away. Instead, she was simply picked up from behind and dragged off. The release also names the policeman who tried to strike Amaya with the baton as Nicholas Gomez.
Kremandala says it views the incident as an assault on the independent media, against women, and against the freedom that journalists once had to move around to cover events. Kremandala called on the rest of the media to collectively stand against the assault, which it sees as a dangerous precedent that this government and the security forces it commands have established.

Joining in the condemnation were the National Women’s Commission (NWC) and the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrow.
NWC calls the assault a form of gender-based violence. It also reminded of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishmentand Eradication of Violenceagainst Women, which Belize signed onto.
The Special Envoy’s press release on the matter states in part: “The frightening images…of the unacceptable treatment of a female journalist by law enforcement officers…is not the first time Ms Amaya…has been disrespectedin plain view on national television.”

“Journalists should not be subjected to inhumane treatment by anyone, least of all, law enforcement officers!” the Special Envoy stated. She concluded by saying she will convene a meeting with the Press Corps and policy makers in the Police Department to establish guidelines that will restore good working relationsbetween media and police.

Minister responsible for Police, Elodio Aragon told reporters on Thursday that when the police give an order, whether to the media or other civilians, they ought to comply. “You need to obey the law. The police are there to enforce the law and to ask you to move, then you should move…The police has a job to do. In no way are we attacking the media.”
Aragon supported the idea of the police and the media meeting to formulate a set of protocols that would define how both sides conduct themselves when there is an event or an incident.

Amaya has received many messages of support from people who saw the assault on the television news and who denounce the act against her.

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