Miami (October 21, 2019) – The burning and looting of newspaper El Mercurio in Valparaíso, Chile by demonstrators protesting government austerity measures last Saturday was "a serious attack on freedom of the press," the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) stated.
Dozens of protesters stormed the building that houses El Mercurio, founded in 1827, and also the newspaper La Estrella. They destroyed offices and equipment. Employees managed to leave unharmed.
The violent protest was in response to economic measures taken by the government of President Sebastián Piñera.
The president of IAPA, Christopher Barnes, and Roberto Rock of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, condemned the "vandalism that is a clear attack on press freedom in the country."
"We also demand guarantees so that the Chilean press does not become a target of violence," said Barnes, managing director of the newspaper The Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica; and Rock, director of La Silla Rota news portal, Mexico City, Mexico. The two similarly repudiated recent attacks on news media in Ecuador.
Protests in Chile began after the government announced higher prices for subway fares. President Piñera annulled the increase but maintained in force the country's state of emergency and curfew.
The IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from the Western Hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.