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Chile12 March 2002

Spanish journalist refused visa

In a letter to Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza, RSF protested the Interior Ministry’s decision not to renew the visa of Spanish journalist Marc Serra i Torrent, and his arrest on two occasions. "This decision is strictly aimed at punishing the journalist for reporting on demonstrations by indigenous communities protesting the construction of a hydroelectric power-station," stated RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. Ménard recalled that three other media professionals were detained in 1999 under similar circumstances. RSF asked the interior minister to renew Serra i Torrent’s visa and to cease identifying journalists as aboriginal rights activists.

According to information collected by RSF, Spanish journalist Serra i Torrent, correspondent for the magazine "Resumen Latinoamericano" and the Catalan newspaper "Illacrua", was briefly detained on two occasions. The incident occurred on 1 March 2002, while he was covering demonstrations by indigenous communities protesting the construction of a hydroelectric power-station by the Ralco dam, in the Bio Bio region (approximately 450 kilometres south of Santiago). A number of individuals were injured as a result of clashes between the authorities and the demonstrators and various other people were detained. On both occasions, the police took the journalist to the nearby city of Los Angeles. He was released after several hours without being charged. One week later, Serra i Torrent asked for his visa to be renewed, but his request was denied. He was told that he would have to leave Chile by 13 March at the latest. The journalist has a letter from "Resumen Latinoamericano", verifying that he works for the publication. He had a tourist visa, valid for three months, which can theoretically be renewed in the country.

RSF recalls that on 14 March 1999, freelance photographer Sergio Bravo, Miguel Tapia of Radio Canelo and Elías Paiñán of Radio Yungay were arrested near the city of Cañete (500 kilometres south of Santiago), while they were covering clashes between the police and Mapuche indigenous people. The three journalists were released the next day, but they had to appear in court several times in the weeks following their arrest.

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