Report to the IAPA
March 28, 2020

During this period there have been registered serious attacks on press freedom, especially during the acts of violence that shocked the country.

President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of constitutional exception since on October 18 there began a major social conflict characterized by public disorders, violence in the streets, provoked fires in public transport and acts of vandalism against supermarkets and other businesses.

Several radio stations, television channels and newspapers suffered attacks of various intensity and their professionals were the object of harassment and death threats on social media. Some media were attacked and set on fire, especially regional newspapers whose headquarters in the centers of cities facilitated these actions: on October 19 attacked was El Mercurio of Valparaíso, on November 26 El Líder of San Antonio and on January 13 El Mercurio of Antofagasta.

Coverage by news media has been excessively difficult. Some media have provided security measures for their journalists, such as not counting on distinctive elements of the media outlet in which they work, not using cameras or equipment that show that they are journalists of a media and cover certain events at a distance, capturing images through public cameras.

While the attacks that some journalists have suffered in the streets have been provoked by demonstrators and not by state agents, the police have not established a special protocol for their protection.

On November 15 various political sectors signed an "Agreement for Peace," which was translated into a plebiscite to ask about an eventual constitutional amendment on next October 25 to approve the drafting of a new constitution in replacement of the current one, in effect since 1980. If the plebiscite is approved there will be convoked a constituent organ which, among other matters, will have to debate the statute of freedom of expression and of the press.

A new economic blow for the media in general was represented by the 2019 Budgets Law. For the third consecutive year it establishes quotas of 40% of official advertisements for the regional media that are not part of conglomerates, contradicting criteria of effectiveness regarding official advertising.

There continue under review bills that can affect press freedom: An amendment of the Law on Protection of Personal Data would include the media as the base of data, which would permit them to be obliged to eliminate information, giving rise to the right to oblivion.

Two bills prohibit advertising of alcoholic beverages and medications in the media, violating commercial freedom. Another establishes the right of women to a life free of violence, but it indicates that the authority will decide the manner in which the media will have to comply with the promotion of this law.

Another bill that is moving ahead this year sets a fine for expressions of hatred, including acts of negativity or that justify the violations of human rights that occurred in Chile from 1973 to 1990 and those that praise the figure of the Chilean military regime in those years. In these items there is contemplated sanctioning of the authors, with punishments of privation of freedom, such as for the media that publish them, which could lead to the extinction of the news company that edits them or its criminal responsibility.