Police officers are seen in front of a burning barricade in Valparaiso, Chile, on November 26, 2019. The Valparaiso headquarters of Chilean daily El Lider were vandalized and burned by protesters on November 26. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

Headquarters of Chilean daily El Líder damaged in arson attack by protesters

December 20, 2019 1:15 PM ET

On November 26, 2019, at around 8 p.m., unidentified demonstrators broke into the headquarters of Chilean newspaper El Líder, in the commune of San Antonio, Valparaíso, started fires, and vandalized the newspaper’s offices, according to news reports and a statement from the National Press Association, an independent association of Chilean media outlets.

Protests began in San Antonio and other Chilean cities in October after the government announced an increase in subway fares, according to news reports.

El Líder manager Manuel Mejías told CPJ in a phone interview that the majority of the protesters near the newspaper’s headquarters were peaceful, but that a group of hooded demonstrators split from the main protest at about 5 p.m. and began to throw rocks at the El Líder office, prompting its staff to evacuate.

At 8 p.m., demonstrators broke into the offices, vandalized it, stole equipment, and lit the building on fire, according to Mejías and video of the incident released by Chilean broadcaster Tele13.

No newspaper staffers were hurt in the incident, Mejías said. He added that it was not clear why that group targeted El Líder, and suggested it could have been due to some protesters’ opposition to the newspaper’s editorial line or simply anger at media perceived as part of the establishment.

Firefighters eventually extinguished the flames, which spread to neighboring buildings, according to Tele13.

The print version of El Líder has continued publication from Santiago, the capital, but personnel have not been able to work at the San Antonio headquarters since the attack, Mejías told CPJ in December.

El Líder is privately owned by the El Mercurio conglomerate, Mejía told CPJ. The headquarters of two other El Mercurio dailies were set on fire by protesters on October 19, 2019, as CPJ reported at the time.

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