Chilean authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into the shooting of Chilean National Television (TVN) staffers Iván Núñez and Esteban Sánchez, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.
On March 27 at about 9 p.m., unidentified attackers shot at Núñez, a reporter, and Sánchez, a camera operator with the state media outlet, injuring Núñez in his forearm and Sánchez in the eye and chest, according to news reports.
The attack occurred as the journalists were driving in an unmarked car in the Lleu Lleu area of Chile’s central Bío Bío region, according to those reports and Danilo Ahumada, president of the Chilean Journalists Union, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app
Sánchez lost an eye and remains hospitalized, but his injuries are not life-threatening, according to news reports and Ahumada. Núñez received a minor injury to his forearm, according to those reports.
At the order of the federal prosecutor’s office, the Special Police Investigations Brigade of the Chilean Investigative Police is investigating the attack, according to news reports.
“Chilean authorities must continue their investigation into the shooting of TVN staffers Iván Núñez and Esteban Sánchez, and ensure the perpetrators face justice,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “In a case as dangerous as this one, it is essential for authorities to send an unequivocal message that it is unacceptable to target the press.”
Núñez called police after the attack, and bystanders drove him and Sánchez to a nearby hospital in Curanilahue where they were both treated, according to news reports.
The attack took place while Núñez and Sánchez were returning from meeting with Héctor Llaitul, a spokesperson for the Arauco-Malleco Coordination, an Indigenous organization that is in a land dispute with multinational forestry corporations and local farmers, Ahumada told CPJ.
The reporting team was scheduled to interview Llaitul the following day, according to news reports.
“It is not clear who is behind the attack,” Ahumada said. Conflict over the land dispute has escalated over the last year, with reports of arson attacks on trucks and factories affiliated with forestry companies.
Llaitul condemned the attack, and said that the Arauco-Malleco Coordination had “absolutely nothing to do with this incident,” according to news reports.
On March 28, TVN issued a statement calling the attack “an unacceptable affront to press freedom,” and indicating that it would initiate criminal proceedings and cooperate with the investigation.