Belize: police officers prevent Love News from covering a protest and arrest reporter

Expression

On 7th May 2021, police officers arrested and assaulted Love News reporter Vejea Alvarez as he and a news team tried to cover a nurses’ protest at a hospital in Orange Walk Town. According to the journalist, a security guard obstructed their work and called police officers to escort him off the compound. During the incident, a sergeant reportedly shoved the journalist and they had a discussion; the sergeant then ordered officers to arrest him on alleged false charges of “assault on a police officer”.

In a video filmed by the news team, the officers are seen handcuffing the journalist as he exited the compound. Three days later, the Police Commissioner announced that the sergeant and other officers involved would face criminal and disciplinary action.

Peaceful Assembly

On 17th May 2021, police detained four teachers who were protesting against salary cuts. As part a series of protests convened by the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) in April and May 2021, demonstrators blocked highways and bridges in Belize City. This led to confrontation with commuters, with one man pulling out a firearm and threatening teacher protesters. Police detained four teachers in Benque Viejo when they attempted to burn tyres along the highway.

The protests continued over several days. On 23rd May 2021, a Police Commissioner said that teacher protesters had repeatedly broken the law by demonstrating without a permit and by failing to comply with COVID-19-related quarantine regulations. On 28th May 2021, demonstrators organised a peaceful protest in front of the National Assembly as government ministers arrived for the sitting of the House of Representatives. Police officers faced resistance as they forced protesters staging a sit-in directly in front of the building to move further away.

In June 2021, the BNTU rejected concessions offered by the government and filed a challenge in the Supreme Court against the teachers’ salary cuts. They claim the cuts were implemented illegally.