IAPA Midyear Meeting 2016
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
April 8-11

During this period several legislative bills which currently are under debate in Congress – the recent adoption of laws and rulings of the Judicial Branch – could lessen editorial freedom and freedom of expression.

A Supreme Court ruling against, the El Mercurio news portal, contains for the first time in the country the allegation of "right to digital oblivion" ordering a news media outlet to remove a news item from its Web site. However, the right to oblivion is not contained in the legislation and it is only possible to remove a personal detail, within the area of the treatment of personal details, given that it comes about as a form of cancellation or special elimination of the details of a person who appears in a database or file that is available on the Web and that is not currently being of use. The news media are not databases, as is recognized in the Law on Protection of Personal Details, therefore they do not have the obligation to delete news or news items.

In line with the Supreme Court some members of Congress have decided to submit a bill that would amend Article 13 of Law No. 19,628 on protection of privacy, to establish the right to removal of the personal details stored in search engines and Web sites.

In another development, there is a bill to amend the laws on protection of the consumer and protection of personal details with the aim that providers can only send advertising communications to consumers in the case that there exists prior express agreement. This bill is aimed at putting obstacles to the manner in which the media, especially the smaller ones, fund their operations.

A ruling by the Santiago Family Tribunal prohibited the magazine Revista Paula from publishing a report on the program "Residences of Protection for Teenage Mothers" existing since 2005 and to which are sent pregnant minors that enter the state-run National Minors Service, ignoring the clause that prior censorship should not exist. The magazine submitted an appeal to the Santiago Appeals Court.

Soon to be enacted is the bill for the Strengthening and Transparency of Democracy (Bulletin No. 9790-07) that would establish measures to achieve "electoral campaigns with equity and respect for the citizenry." Among these it is indicated that the media could not discriminate in the collection of fees between the various candidates or propositions concerning elections or plebiscites that that they must inform the Electoral Service of the fees, having to publish them on the respective media outlet's Web site and that of the Electoral Service. This obligation sets limits on the media's right to ownership, limiting their income and their roles. The current Electoral Service already has the necessary attributions for the candidates for posts by popular elections to show the amounts paid for advertising, so the tool only distorts the activity of the press.

Continuing underway is a bill to amend the Work Code so as to contain the possibility of excluding from the limitation of the length of the ordinary work day those who work in the news media. Given the problems that this bill gave rise to a working group was formed, with the participation of the National Press Association, media labor unions and the Journalists Guild, with the objective of reaching an agreement on the issue.

The National Press Association reached agreement with Environment Minister Pablo Badenier on excluding Article 9 from the recycling bill which identified newspapers, magazines and periodicals as priority products, with the obligations that this signifies.

Discussion continues on a bill that would establish waste management and extended responsibility of the producer (Bulletin No. 9094-12). It has as its objective reduction of the generation of waste matter and encouragement of its re-use and recycling, through the establishment of the "extended responsibility of the producer" for nine categories of products, among them "newspapers, periodicals and magazines."

This waste management instrument makes the producers of certain goods responsible for the organization and funding of their respective waste matter. This implies that the manufacturer or importer will have to take charge of the product once its useful life is over, it having to comply with the recycling goals established by the Environment Ministry and other waste management entities.

Some obligations would go against press freedom, as prior authorization would be required to sell newspapers, periodicals or magazines that are not subject to a management system. In addition the Environment Superintendent's Office would have the power to order the prohibition of the sale of a newspaper, periodical or magazine so long as it has not complied with the recycling goals or valuation established in supreme decrees that for this effect are issued by the Environment Ministry. It also establishes that the sellers and distributors of newspapers, periodicals and magazines have the obligation to accept, without any cost, the delivery of priority waste products of the consumers, so long as their installations have sufficient space, among other things.

A bill to amend Law No. 19,733 would prohibit the vertical integration of editorial companies with those engaged in distribution, commercialization and direct sale of printed matter to the public. This amounts to a clear limitation of the right to media ownership, imposing restrictions on the free development of the news activity.

The Senate approved an amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code, establishing the punishment of short-term imprisonment in its minimum degree (up to 541 days) to anyone violating the obligation to keep criminal investigations secret.

Given the range of this it could include the work of the press, amounting to a kind of gag law.

The seriousness of this matter gave rise to the immediate reaction of the National Press Association, which demanded that there be expressly excluded the work of the news media. Given this, many members of Congress committed to leaving aside the means of application of this amendment. The government itself said that it is not acceptable to limit the investigative work of the press.

The amendment must now be approved in the Chamber of Deputies, which is expected to expressly exclude the news media.