Miami, July 14, 2021 — Chilean authorities must thoroughly investigate police officers’ use of rubber bullets against journalists Vicente Rojas López and Felipe García, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On July 7, at about 6 p.m., agents with the Chilean Investigative Police shot rubber bullets at both journalists while they were covering the funeral procession of activist Luisa Toledo Sepúlveda as it passed in front of the Investigative Police headquarters in Santiago, the capital, hitting García in the face and Rojas in the foot, according to press reports, video of the shooting posted to social media, and Rojas, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Rojas is the founder and director of the independent news agency Panoptik, and García is a freelance journalist, according to those sources.
García was taken to the local San José Hospital and received stitches on his cheek for the rubber bullet wound, and was discharged the same day; Rojas told CPJ that he did not seek medical attention.
“Chilean authorities must thoroughly investigate police officers’ use of rubber bullets against journalists Vicente Rojas López and Felipe García,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “As the number of reporters injured by police weapons continues to grow in Chile, it is vital for authorities to determine if officers are targeting journalists and, if so, to hold those responsible to account.”
Both journalists were wearing their press credentials and holding cameras at the time they were shot, Rojas told CPJ.
“They knew perfectly well that we were press,” Rojas said. “They targeted us. They fired directly at us, not at the protesters.”
CPJ called the Chilean Investigative Police for comment at the phone number listed on its official website, but the call did not connect.
Participants in the funeral procession threw rocks and other objects, and vandalized and damaged buildings and cars as the group passed through Santiago, according to news reports.
Rojas told CPJ that he reported the incident to the National Institute of Human Rights, a government body that handles human rights issues, and said the Chilean Investigative Police later called and invited him to present testimony on the incident. He said he believed that call was meant to harass him, and said he never received a follow-up call to schedule his testimony.