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Police commanders refuse to identify officer who injured EFE photographer despite promise of disciplinary action

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is not satisfied with the promises given by Chile's Carabinero police to punish some of its members for a physical attack on photographer Víctor Salas of the Spanish news agency EFE while he was covering a protest on 21 May 2008 in the western city of Valparaíso.

EFE reports that there has been talk of disciplining "seven or eight" (or even "nine," in some versions) of the officers on duty at the demonstration.

In a letter to EFE's management, the Carabineros said they had identified the mounted police officer who struck Salas with a metal riding crop, seriously wounding him in the right eye. But when the Union of Photographers and Cameramen sent photos of the officer involved to the Carabinero command, the command curiously said it could not name him.

"We continue to find the behaviour of the Carabineros in this case to be suspicious," Reporters Without Borders said. "Aside from the fact that, although given a photo, they seem unable to say if one of their men has been identified or not, why do they now talk of disciplining several officers and why are they unable to give an exact number? They seem to be trying to gain time instead of giving the appropriate sanction to the officer concerned."

EFE's bureau chief in Chile, Manuel Fuentes, told Reporters Without Borders that Salas is soon to undergo a third operation to his eye, which is likely to determine what level of sight he will be able to recover.