Marco Antonio Ramón, a 25-year-old Peruvian photojournalist, could lose his left eye after being hit by a flurry of rubber bullets from the police while covering a protest for newspaper Peru.21 in Lima.
During the protest, police allegedly fired shots at the faces of both the demonstrators and journalists who covered the event, according to Panamericana.pe.
In spite of the difficulties he faced to leave the country, Ramón managed to travel to the U.S. on Jan. 8, after his family filed for a humanitarian visa, according to what his sister Roxabel Ramón published on her Facebook profile. The San Pablo clinic, where he was treated after being injured, did not issue an adequate travel permit, which meant that American Airlines initially did not allow him to board.
“The journalistic association does not exist (in Peru), there is no organization; I want to say that to my colleagues: do not wait for someone to die to organize, this could have happened to anyone,” Ramón said to state news channel TV Perú 7.3 before traveling to Miami, where he hopes to have an operation on his left eye at the Bascom Palmer clinic.
The sister of the journalist told the news program 24 Horas of Panamericana that her brother has a vitreous hemorrhage in his left eye and that he is at great risk of losing vision if he does not receive prompt attention.
She added that her brother, also known as Atoq, was called by Peru.21, outside office hours, to cover a neighborhood protest, so they expect the media to cover all the expenses required for his recovery.
Peru.21 expressed indignation at what happened to Ramón during the neighborhood protest in Puente Piedra - which left five wounded and 26 detained - and ensured that it will take care of all medical expensesthat are necessary for his recovery.
“With his camera (Ramón) managed to capture in the photo who shot the pellets,” said the photographer’s sister, who demanded authorities investigate to identify the police members who fired the shots, La República said.
Meanwhile, Ramon´s colleagues are raising funds from Jan. 6 to 9, through Facebook, with a virtual sale of photographs by Ramón and other photographers. The intent is to raise money to pay expenses that cannot be covered by his family or workplace.
Covering protests can be physically dangerous for journalists. In a similar case in 2013, Brazilian photographer Sérgio Silva was hit by a rubber bullet during a protest and subsequently lost sight in his left eye. A judge denied his request for compensation against the state in 2016, saying it was the journalist’s responsibility for putting himself between police and protesters.