May 19, 2015
The Goldman Prize is known for recognizing environmental activists who have accomplished major environmental achievements while enduring significant risks to their safety. In addition to murder, threats faced by activists often include harassment, physical abuse, intimidation, false criminalization, unjust arrests and jail sentences.
In 2014, Global Witness reported that the frequency of murders of environmentalists has increased dramatically over the last decade. As environmental defenders, Goldman Prize winners have also been impacted by this alarming trend. This week we are spotlighting a few of the Goldman Prize winners who have recently endured threats, violence, intimidation and legal issues because of their work to defend the environment. Click on each of the names below to learn more about their stories:
- In 2012, Yul Choi (South Korea, 1995) was sentenced to one year in prison for his activism;
- In 2012, Marc Ona (Gabon, 2009) was threatened with a prison sentence and a $10,000 fine that would have shut down his NGO;
- In 2013, Tsetsegee Munkhbayar (Mongolia, 2007) was sentenced to 21 years in prison for bringing loaded firearms to a demonstration; his sentence was later reduced to under 7 years;
- In 2013, Sofia Gatica (Argentina, 2012) was physically attacked for her activism;
- In 2014, the husband of Rizwana Hasan (Bangladesh, 2009) was kidnapped; he was released the next day;
- In 2014, the offices of Francisco Pineda (El Salvador, 2011) were broken into, potentially to disrupt preparations for a legal case against mining companies.
As highlighted in Global Witness’s latest report, 2015 Goldman Prize winner Berta Cáceres is currently living under extreme threat to her safety and wellbeing. Cáceres was awarded the Prize for waging a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. For her activism, she is subjected to regular death threats, she has been criminalized by her government and has suffered the loss of murdered colleagues.
Cáceres operates in such an extreme environment that her murder would “not surprise” her colleagues, who keep a eulogy prepared—but hope to never have to use it. Despite these risks, she maintains a public presence in order to continue her work. In Honduras, a country with some of the highest murder rates in the world, Cáceres hopes the victory in Agua Zarca will bring hope to other activists fighting irresponsible development in Honduras and throughout Latin America.
Join us next week as we highlight some of the steps the Goldman Prize is taking to protect environmental activists and what you can do to help.