On Sunday, May 1st, Francisca Sandoval, an independent media journalist, was shot in the face. Since that day and after a complex operation to remove the bullet, we have been waiting for her farewell, after the announcement that she was brain dead, because we no longer believe in miracles and because afterwards so many names stolen by the State, the governments in power, their repressive forces, their hired assassins or the mafias that cause or protect them, we know perfectly well that the dead are still on the side of those who fight for justice or report the truth. Francisca Sandoval was one of those people and today she died.
Por Ximena Soza
During the 12 days of agonising despair, protests outside the hospital where she was and the mockery of the judiciary, not only Francisca has gone, but also Yesenia Mollinedo and Johana Garcia in Veracruz, Mexico and Shireen Abu Akleh in Palestine. All women, all journalists. We need to ask ourselves what the states, the governments in power, their repressive forces, their hired assassins or the mafias that cause or protect them have against women; because of the multiple forms of oppression that we experience and even the large number of murdered women, we know that everything is against the truth; the imminent proof that they are lying, in the case of Francisca Sandoval, we want to know how and in what way.
The independent media in Chile have historically been responsible for reporting what is hidden from the top of the political elite, the intelligence operations or the monstrosities of the military dictatorship. During the 70’s and 80’s, several independent media were the ones who managed to denounce the human rights violations, since afterwards the existing media before the coup d’état was dismantled, arresting, exiling and murdering its members, the remaining media were constantly being manipulated and controlled by the government. As the Memoria Chilena website reports, afterwards the existing media outlets APSI, Hoy and Análisis were the ones that took the risk of disseminating opposition material. From then on, they risked their own integrity and that of their families. If these media had not existed, it is likely that international organisations would have taken longer to gather evidence to intercede on behalf of the Chilean people, as human rights organisations were constantly violated.
During the Chilean social outbreak in 2019, the independent and popular media also played an essential role in denouncing the state and the government of Sebastián Piñera, photographing scenes of violence against thousands of people with pepper spray, tear gas, water with chemicals, sticks, blows and rubber bullets. During those days, La Red reports that many journalists, photographers and reporters were directly attacked, as is the case of Sergio Concha Piña in the fifth region or the case of Marcelo Grary in Santiago, who, having shown his camera and indicated that it was press, was shot at close range with pellets, even in his hands.
Señal 3 de La Victoria was the workplace of Francisca Sandoval, for whom she was reporting the day she was murdered. This channel is located in an emblematic neighbourhood of Santiago, one of the neighbourhoods that have managed to defy the authorities and the State that has marginalised them, to create autonomous spaces for creation, education and information, such as this very channel, which since 1997 has become the first community television station in the country. According to the channel’s own words, this independent and self-managed space was born out of the need to “socialise information that is censored and irrelevant to the concentrated media in the hands of Chile’s economic powers”, and they not only regret the murder of their co-worker, but they are also committed to seeking truth and justice in her case.
On the day of Francisca’s murder several people were injured. Of the cases that were reported, 3 of the 4 belonged to a media outlet. Days afterwards another reporter was run over by a car of the special forces of the carabineros and in spite of the call for help from those who were there, reporting that she was unconscious, the police did not try to give her medical assistance and in this state, they transferred her to their detention car. Several individuals made the videos of this incident public through their social networks. It is impossible not to think that behind these attacks there is a systematic persecution of those who report what happens during demonstrations.
We know that in other Latin American countries such as Mexico, journalists are in constant danger of their lives. In this country 11 journalists have been murdered so far in 2022. This week two new murders shook the world, when the director of El Veraz, Yesenia Mollinedo, and cameraman Johana García were gunned down in Cosoleacaque. This brings to 11 the number of violent deaths of reporters so far this year, deaths that are only four days apart from the murder of reporter Luis Enrique Ramírez (El Pais). Although this number of murders is not reported in Chile and this is the first to be recognised as such afterwards the death of journalist Jose Carrasco in 1986 (BioBio Chile), due to the increase in attacks it is essential to protect this profession.
The recently inaugurated government of Gabriel Boric lamented the facts and promised not to allow impunity, which does not sound like a guarantee at all, since during his presidential campaign, he himself promised the dissolution of the Carabineros de Chile, and after assuming the presidency he spoke of absolute support for this state force and designated, together with his interior minister, a budget to strengthen the equipment they use in repressive contexts. After the shooting of civilians during the May Day demonstration in which Francisca Sandoval was shot in the face, he referred to violence in general and not to police violence or inaction. The official media disseminated this look, as well as giving the shooters space to explain what they stood for in doing so.
At the scene of the events on 25 March, civilians had already brutally beaten a high school student, a minor, leaving him in life-threatening condition without the police doing anything about it. La Capucha Informativa on May 1st shared multiple photographs showing the armed men approaching the carabineros who did not proceed to arrest them and who, according to witnesses, opened the way for them on the day of the shooting. Carabineros during that day not only failed to act against those responsible for Francisca’s murder, but rather continued to attack the health brigadistas with tear gas, while raising their hands to warn them that Francisca Sandoval was being attended to by volunteer doctors while waiting for the ambulance to take her to the Posta Central where she underwent surgery and died 12 days after.
It is difficult after, these events, not to think that the Chilean police are in collusion with the gang members who carried out the shootings. In many instances it has been seen how carabineros infiltrators are involved in demonstrations or other similar instances. Last Friday, during new days of protest outside the hospital where Francisca was being held, civilians appeared to denounce the demonstrators and help make their arrests possible. After the Chilean Investigative Police arrested those responsible for the shooting of Francisca Sandoval and others, the Sixth Court of Guarantee of Santiago ordered house arrest against the two accused (Publimetro), which also makes it difficult not to think that the Chilean state endorses this violence against people and media workers, since it has been demonstrated that repression, inaction and impunity are part of its structures. One can only wonder what they are hiding or trying to cover up, but without alternative media and workers like Francisca Sandoval, we will never know.