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Peru8 December 2006

Journalist fights for his life after being shot in head while covering protest

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about Wilman Caychigua Robles, a freelance contributor to Radio Inca Tropical and the El Chasqui daily newspaper, who is fighting for his life after being shot in the head while covering a protest in the southeastern city of Abancay on 5 December.

“We call for a prompt investigation to establish who was responsible for this tragedy, in particular, who was responsible for the police decision to open fire on the protesters,” the press freedom organisation said.

“Without minimizing the violence of the protest, we are outraged by interior minister Pilar Mazzetti’s comments defending the use of real bullets by the police and we call for an explanation from the government,” Reporters Without Borders added, voicing its hope for a swift recovery by Caychigua.

About 20,000 people took part in protests in Abancay on 4 and 5 December calling for the removal of Rosa Suárez, the head of the Apurímac regional government. There were open clashes with the police on the second day when demonstrators tried to storm the regional government’s headquarters.

Caychigua was hit by a stray bullet probably fired by a policeman. It entered his skull and exited through his mouth, and also caused serious neck injuries. He was rushed to a Cuzco hospital where doctors were considering transferring him to Arequipa or Lima in an attempt to save his life, his wife, Pilar Castro, told the PressPerú news agency.

Two other journalists were injured in the clashes. Rúben Melgarejo Aguilar of Radio Laser was struck on the head by a thrown stone, but was only slightly hurt. Eloy Martínez of Canal 13 television was hit in the leg by a teargas grenade.

More than 50 people were injured in the clashes and one, a student, was fatally shot, according to the interior ministry. The minister, Mazzetti, nonetheless publicly defended the police decision to open fire.

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