The Chilean Association of Foreign Correspondents issued a formal complaint against the Chilean police for kidnapping and attacking journalists on Friday, Oct. 14, reported the newspaper El Comercio. This is the first accusation of kidnapping and targeting of journalists by the police since the end of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in 1990, reported the newspaper Folha de São Paulo.
Italian photographer Fernando Fiedler of the Inter Press Service News Agency claimed he was kidnapped by a group of police while covering student protests on Oct. 6. According to El Comercio, police beat the photographer and erased the photographs on his camera. The police denied the charges and asserted their right to take people into custody without cause for up to 12 hours.
Jorge Villegas, photographer for the Chinese Xinhua news agency, said he was poisoned when police held a teargas canister to his face while covering student protests in August. Another seven journalists brought similar accusations, reported the website Sul 21.
Association President Mauricio Weibel stressed that "there is a police pattern of violence but it and impunity have increased at a frightening rate under the Sebastián Piñera." He also criticized the proposed penal code reform that would oblige the press to hand over their audio visual materials to police without a warrant.
The journalistic organization held a meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, to explain the situation. La Rue was in the Chilean capital Santiago on Oct. 12, and asked authorization from the president for an official visit to the South American country.