CHILE Press freedom has faced no major restrictions in recent months, except for a temporary ban on a news story, later lifted on appeal, and some judicial proceedings involving certain Santiago newspapers and magazines. The Senate sent a draft bill on press freedom to the Chamber of Deputies for a third reading. This version of the bill reflects important positive changes compared to the previous text approved by the Chamber of Deputies, which is the lower house of Congress. The modifications include: eliminating the preference for graduates of university journalism school. *eliminating the authority of judges to ban dissemination of information on matters under their consideration. *access to public sources is ensured, at least in theory. reduction in penalties, notably in prison sentences. At the same time, there were backward steps. The bill obligates print media to state the number of copies published in each edition and news organizations to submit to verification of their circulation statements. The news media have newly protested the continuing existence of Article 25 of the Advertising Law, which grants judges discretionary powers to ban the dissemination of information without any time limit. This matter is dealt with satisfactorily in the draft bill of the Law about the Freedom of Opinion and Information. But problems on this front arise and indeed are aggravated in new, singularly restrictive norms in the new Criminal Procedure Code, which introduces oral trials in Chile. Among other things, it prohibits providing information on police formalities and investigations. It also provides that hearings in a trial be public, but the court reserves the authority to restrict access to information about the case. In practical terms, there is concern about the intention of closing of sources to the news media. The principal events in this period are: On June 13, the head of the sixth criminal court of Valparaiso banned the dissemination of information on a drug trafficking trial known as "Operation Ocean." The measure was adopted on grounds that there were leaks of important documents of a secret file stipulated in the the drug control law. On June 29, the court decreed the information ban on the case would last four months. As a result of actions undertaken by media organizations, on July 30 an appeals court unanimously overturned the ban. In its ruling, which is of great importance for the concepts its contains, the appeals court underscores that "the full existence of the freedom to emit opinion and to disseminate information without prior censorship is consubstantial with the real functioning of a democratic state of law and when exercised with relation to jurisdictional activity, this becomes the most expeditious means by which citizens are endowed to control the way judges fulfill their assigned and elevated role." On July 6, the 35'h Criminal Court of Santiago banned the dissemination of information on the investigation into the case of a girl who was raped and murdered in a Santiago suburb. It said it took this action to "prevent the news media from providing information that could hinder the success of the investigation." The court's ban was appealed. On August 10, the Santiago Appeals Court in a majority vote supported an injunction to prevent the magazine Caras from preparing and publishing an article that intended to link the suicide of a relative of one of the victims of an airplane accident in Peru with the difficulties arising from collecting compensation from the respective airline. The Supreme Court overturned this ban on November 3 and in this form recognized the right of the news media to carry out investigative journalism and to disseminate news free of prior censorship. In a unanimous ruling the Supreme Court determined that the magazine had not acted illegally or arbitrarily when it investigated the family's complaint and overruled the injunction. On September 16, the editor of the dally La Tercera, Fernando Paulsen and one of his reporters, Jose Ale, were taken into custody on charges brought under the government's State Security Law. The next day, the respective court acted on an appeal and freed the two journalists on bail. The case in question was dismissed twice in definitive form by different judges. Later, an appeals court determined the two journalists should stand trial. The legal action against the two journalists was initiated by Supreme Court Justice Servando Jordan López. The suit was based on a La Tercera news story that referred to a controversial election which in January 1996 made him for a time the president of the Supreme Court. The charges were brought under a provision under Article 6 letter b of the State Security Law, which categorizes libel and slander against diverse authorities as a crime against public order. The case demonstrates the enormous danger that this measure poses for exercise of freedom of expression. On November 1, unidentified assailants hurled two firebombs at the premises of the El Mercurio daily in Antafagosta, causing some damage.