CHILE On February 23, the judge of the Third Criminal Court in Concepción, Flora Sepúlveda, banned reporting on the trial of university student Jorge Matute Johns, saying that the case had entered a major stage in the proceedings. The ban was lifted on March 20. On July 7, on the direct intervention of Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, a February 22 Supreme Court ruling against journalist José Ale was overturned. The Supreme Court had upheld a lower court decision to sentence Ale, of the Santiago daily La Tercera, to 541 days in prison on a charge of violating Chile’s internal security law. The Chamber of Deputies threw out a report by the Mixed (Senate and Chamber) Committee on a bill for a new Law on Freedom of Opinion and of Information and the Practice of Journalism that had been in the works for the past seven years. On August 11, the government formally called for certain provisions contained in the Mixed Committee’s report to be put back in the bill. These included a new Article 10 that would take effect six months from enactment and would require print media with a circulation of more than 5,000 to report in each issue the press run of the previous issue. This article was considered a discriminatory intrusion into newspapers’ business operations. Opponents see it as particularly onerous for the provincial media as it would exempt national newspapers and magazines from having to state how many of their copies are distributed in each area of the country. Article 39 of the bill would require the provincial or national commission of the Anti-Trust Office to be notified of any change in the ownership of media – in advance in certain cases. This is an unnecessary measure, as the print media already have to report such changes to the national or respective local government. With repeal of the Law of Advertising Abuse that will come about with enactment of the new Press Law several irksome current legal provisions will disappear – among them the ability of judges to order court reporting bans. But also ending will be provisions determining which situations should not be regarded as invasion of privacy and allowing truth as a defense. Applicable in their place would be Article 161-A of the Penal Code, whose restrictive contents have been strongly opposed by the press and leading criminal lawyers. Amendment of the State Security Law by executive action has removed defamation and libel of the Chilean president, cabinet members, senators, congressmen, high court judges, the comptroller general, the commanders in the chief of the Armed Forces or the head of the national militarized police force as punishable offenses specifically under this law. Henceforth, alleged libel of such persons will be punishable under normal legislation, though it remains an offense under the Penal Code to show contempt for authorities carrying out their duties. In compensation for this, the amendment says that those public figures mentioned, plus the director general of investigations, may have recourse to the services of a special prosecutor in any civil or criminal action they take. Reporter Paula Afani remains on trial for refusing to reveal her news sources for stories on drug trafficking and money laundering. The State Defense Council has called for her to be given the maximum sentence under terms of Law 19,366 where it deals with narcotics trafficking – five years’ imprisonment. There has been no new development meanwhile in the plight of Alejandra Matus, charged under the State Security Law in connection with her authorship of “The Black Book of Chilean Justice.” The case against her could be dropped if provisions in that law are repealed and replaced by new free-speech rights now being debated in Congress.