Getty Images photographer John Moore gets hit by a water cannon at a rally ahead of the anniversary of the 1973 Chilean military coup, in Santiago on September 10, 2023. CPJ called on Chilean authorities to hold accountable those who shot journalist Javier Barríav and fired several times at journalist Héctor Saffie as they covered related protests on September 11. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

CPJ calls for accountability after Chilean journalist is shot covering military coup protest  

São Paulo, September 21, 2023–The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Chilean authorities to investigate and hold accountable those who shot Javier Barría, a camera operator with privately owned news outlet MegaMedia, while he covered a protest on the anniversary of the country’s 1973 military coup.

On September 11, Barría was working in the Villa Francia neighborhood in the capital of Santiago alongside his colleague Rodrigo Ugarte, when an unknown person shot him in the right cheek, with the bullet lodging near his ear. Nearby police officers responded immediately and transferred Barria to a hospital.

Journalist Héctor Saffie, from channel T13, was nearby and also came under fire, but was not hit. A representative of the outlet told CPJ by phone that no one was available to comment.

The journalists were reporting on the violent protests that broke out in Santiago—including one at the presidential palace La Moneda—on the 50th anniversary of Augusto Pinochet’s ousting of socialist President Salvador Allende.

“Chilean authorities must investigate and hold accountable those who shot journalist Javier Barría and fired several times at journalist Héctor Saffie,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s program coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Democratic countries must guarantee a safe environment for journalists to work so they can keep society informed about matters of public interest.”

The bullet that hit Barría did not damage any bones or nerves. “Doctors said it was a miracle,” Ugarte told news portal BioBio Chile. CPJ was unable to confirm further details about Barría’s injuries.

The prosecutor’s office told CPJ via WhatsApp that the case is being investigated as attempted murder because the shot hit Barría’s face. The office said it had ordered a series of investigations to establish the factual details.

MegaMedia told CPJ by email that it would not issue any statements while the investigation was underway in case they hindered the inquiry or prosecution of the attackers.