Reporters Without Borders condemns violence against Chilean and foreign journalists by supporters of the former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who died on 10 December 2006, in the days before his funeral in Santiago.
“These assaults demonstrate, if ever proof was needed, the utter contempt for freedom of these heirs of one of Latin America’s bloodiest regimes. We call for punishment for who carried out these attacks and for members of the security forces who were present, but did nothing to intervene to protect the journalists,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Some 200 Pinochet supporters set upon Mónica Pérez, Mauricio Bustamante and Iván Nuñez, of Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN) in front of the military hospital where Pinochet had just died on 10 December. The first two had bottles thrown at them and the third was beaten up. The demonstrators also attacked Antonio Quinteros of Canal 13 TV and a crew from Chilevisión.
The following day outside the Military Academy where the funeral was taking place, the correspondent for Spanish channel TVE, María José Ramudo, had her microphone snatched from her by an unidentified person who shouted into it “You Spanish are sons of whores” (The Spanish justice system had asked for Pinochet’s extradition) before starting to hurl objects at her. Police at the scene did nothing to assist her.
11.12.06 - A tribute to 68 media workers murdered or disappeared under Gen. Pinochet
Reporters Without Borders paid homage today to the 68 media personnel - including editors, reporters, photographers, cameramen and printing press workers - who were among the 4,000 people murdered or disappeared during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Pinochet’s death yesterday prevents justice being fully rendered to his victims and their families but does not mean these crimes must go unpunished.
“Like many others, we regret that Gen. Pinochet died without ever being tried in court,” the press freedom organisation said. “His death rightly arouses a deep frustration, which can only be assuaged if the Chilean judicial authorities resolutely undertake to try those responsible for the human rights violations that took place between 1973 and 1986.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We pay tribute to the victims of this bloody regime, which was outrageously condoned by western governments and supported by the United States. Our thoughts go out especially to those 68 media workers and their families, for whose sake the dictator’s death must not result in impunity.”
A total of 21 reporters and editors, 20 photographers, cameramen and technicians, and 27 printing press workers were killed or disappeared under Gen. Pinochet’s dictatorship, from the day of his coup on 11 September 1973 until 1986 (four years before the return to civilian rule). Most were arrested, tortured and murdered in the weeks following the 1973 coup, in atrocities covered by a 1978 law in which the junta amnestied all crimes committed until that moment.
On 21 March of this year, 13 military personnel were indicted for their role in the “Caravan of Death,” a unit that travelled around eliminating the junta’s opponents in October and November of 1973. The “Caravan of Death” executed at least 75 political prisoners, including Radio Loa director Carlos Berger Guralnik on 19 October 1973.
Other journalists were killed in the 1980s, in government crackdowns on the waves of protests that preceded the 1988 referendum, the prelude to the end of the dictatorship. Freelance photographer Rodrigo Rojas died on 2 July 1986 after being set on fire by an army patrol. The soldier directly responsible, Lt. Pedro Fernández Dittus, received a prison sentence.
José Carrasco Tapia, the editor of now defunct weekly Análisis, was shot dead by an automatic firearm along with three other government opponents on 8 September 1986, the day after a failed attempt to ambush and assassinate Gen. Pinochet. Fourteen former political police officers were charged on 26 October 2005 but their superior, Gen. Humberto Gordon, died in 2000 of cancer, while benefiting from a conditional release.
Carrasco was the last journalist to be killed under the dictatorship. A memorial to the journalists killed or disappeared under the Pinochet regime was inaugurated on 8 September 1999 on the spot where Carrasco’s body was found.