COLOMBIA: Police attack photographer covering protest

June 27, 2007

Manuel Santiago Pérez, El Universal

Pérez, a photojournalist for the Sincelejo-based daily El Universal, was attacked by five police officers while covering a taxi drivers’ protest in northwestern Sucre province, the photojournalist told CPJ.

Pérez and a colleague arrived at a road block outside the provincial capital, Sincelejo, at 9 a.m. to cover a local taxi drivers’ protest against a new toll. When Pérez tried to photograph a member of Colombia’s national police who was scuffling with taxi driver, another police officer shoved the photographer with his shield, Pérez said. The photographer, who was wearing press credentials, told CPJ that when he asked the police officer to let him do his job he was violently pushed with shields by at least four other police officers. After his colleague, José Javier Sarmiento, tried to intervene, two of the police officers shot Pérez with pepper spray, the journalist said.

Pérez told CPJ that he was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital, where he received treatment for minor injuries to his face and eyes. He said the local police commander came to the hospital and expressed concern about the officers’ actions.