Last week, photojournalist Jason Suder was arrested for taking photos of police brutality during a demonstration in Santiago, Chile. He tells the story in gripping detail here.
Whether it’s for education reform or ending police brutality, Chileans love to demonstrate. No matter how peaceful a protest begins, the special forces arrive in their armored cars and Ninja Turtle suits, stirring a violent response from the encapuchados, or masked vandals. As the hooded youths throw rocks, the police launch tear gas and target journalists with water cannons, showering them with chemicals. At the end of these weekly showdowns, tattered and beaten teenagers are locked up and a public space is destroyed in the clash between the Carabineros, the impenetrable force of military-trained police left over from the Pinochet era, and their masked opponents.
Photographing the events isn’t illegal in Chile, but evidence of police brutality is still undesirable and action is taken accordingly. Suder managed to save his photographs, one pictured above, by hiding his memory cards in his socks. He concludes:
In a country trying to improve its press freedoms, I had obeyed the law. I had done nothing wrong. I had done nothing illegal. In Chile, you are allowed to take pictures freely in a public space.
I was just being a moral person and a conscientious journalist. If documenting police brutality is enough cause to detain a person, then perhaps the country has not come as far from the dictatorship years as it might have hoped.
Suder also notes that Chile fell 47 spots in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2011-2012, an international ranking that measures countries by their treatment of the media.
H/T: The Chilean Student Movement