U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist struck in the head by rubber bullet while covering Puerto Rico protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 17, 2019


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Gabriella N. Baez

Police clash with demonstrators during the fifth day of protests calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Several journalists were injured.

— REUTERS/Gabriella N. Baez
July 17, 2019

Joe Raedle, a photojournalist for Getty Images, was hit by a rubber bullet while covering protests in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 17, 2019.

Raedle was covering protests outside La Fortaleza, the official residence of Governor Ricardo Rosselló, where demonstrators were gathered for the fifth night to demand the governor’s resignation.

Violent clashes between protesters and police began to break out during the evening protests, WAPA-TV broadcast reporter Orlando Rivera Martinez told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Rivera himself was struck by a rubber bullet while covering the protests on July 15.

“During the nights, authorities have been shooting gas and rubber bullets at the protesters,” Rivera said. “And I—and a lot of journalists—have been close by, in the middle of it.”

On July 17, some protesters were throwing firecrackers, beer, bottles of water and glowsticks at police surrounding Rosselló’s mansion. After issuing a warning to the crowd to disperse, officers shot rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd.

Raedle was struck by a rubber bullet presumably fired by police at around 11 p.m., El Nuevo Día reported.

A photo taken by El Nuevo Día photojournalist Xavier Araújo Berríos shows blood dripping down Raedle’s face. Fellow journalist Benjamín Torres Gotay tweeted the next day that Raedle’s wounds were the product of a rubber bullet.

Raedle was transported to a local hospital where his wounds were bandaged, a Getty Images spokesman told El Nuevo Día. He was quickly released, the spokesman said, and returned to covering the demonstrations.

A second journalist, Telemundo cameraman Jorge Figueroa, was injured on the same night. Figueroa was recording amid the crowd when the police began to fire tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, El Nuevo Día reported. In the middle of the ensuing chaos, Figueroa was pushed by demonstrators and fell.

The cameraman was noticed by police officers who helped him up and transported him to the press center of La Fortaleza. In his Facebook post about the incident, Figueroa wrote that he was well.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker only counts incidents where a journalist affected by tear gas, pepper spray or other mass riot control agents if the individual suffers serious injury or appears to have been specifically targeted.

On July 24, after multiple nights of protests, Gov. Rosselló announced he would step down on Aug. 2.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].