Radio reporter beaten by national police

New York, May 11, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists said today it was alarmed by reports that Chilean radio reporter Paola Briceño Verdina was beaten and improperly detained by national police agents after covering a student protest in Santiago last week. CPJ called on Chilean officials to investigate the attack and take action against those responsible.

Local press reports said a large number of university students gathered in Santiago on May 4 to protest a bill that would give private banks a role in the financing of higher education. The demonstration was peaceful at first, but students later clashed with police. Officers responded by firing tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowd.

A national police agent detained Briceño Verdina shortly after she aired a report for private radio station Radio Bío-Bío. Although Briceño Verdina identified herself as a reporter and showed the agent her press credential, she was taken to a police vehicle, the Chilean press reported.

While in the vehicle, Briceño Verdina told CPJ, she was beaten with a police baton on the arms and legs. Three hours later, Briceño Verdina was taken to a police station, accused of disorderly conduct and resisting authorities, and jailed, she told CPJ.

A colonel with the national police soon ordered Briceño Verdina released and apologized. Briceño Verdina, who suffered extensive bruising, told CPJ that she would file a criminal complaint against the agent who beat her and the officer responsible for the operation.

“This criminal attack must be fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Police assigned to crowd control should not obstruct—never mind assault—a reporter who is simply doing her job of covering the news.”