Chile | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Chile

Chile

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

26

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

11

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

7

The Chilean constitution provides for freedom of speech, and post-Pinochet governments have had a reputation for respecting this right in practice. In August 2005, after three years of delays and lobbying by free speech advocates, the government of President Ricardo Lagos enacted measures that eliminated desacato (disrespect) laws from the penal code, which had impeded reporting on the government and military. In September, Congress also reformed the constitution to eliminate defamation as an offense against public persons, a move that was praised by press freedom organizations, including the Inter American Press Association. Nonetheless, there continue to be worries about the classification of some public documents.

In general, the media are independent and freely criticize the government in an atmosphere largely safe from physical threats or intimidation. However, in May Paola Briceno Verdina, a reporter for Radio Bio-Bio, was arrested and beaten by police while covering a student protest in Santiago. She was allowed to leave without charge when a commanding officer, appalled at her treatment, intervened and ordered her immediate release. Investigative reporting continues to be a difficult undertaking, particularly for those journalists working for mainstream publications who are forced to function within the boundaries set by media owners. In early 2005, Plan B, a magazine made up of investigative journalists who left the quasi-governmental La Nacion after alleged censorship, closed because of financial pressures. In June, indigenous journalist Pedro Cayuqueo Millaqueo, director of the Mapuche magazine Azkintuwe, was imprisoned for failing to pay a fine related to his presence at a land occupation in 2003. At the time of his arrest, Millaqueo was trying to obtain an exit visa to participate in a conference of First Nations journalists in Canada.

Press ownership is highly concentrated in the hands of two companies that received preferential treatment during the conservative military dictatorship that left power in 1989. Left-oriented, investigative publications have trouble surviving financially and receive little or no government advertising. Chile's television system, formed before the Pinochet dictatorship, is a mixed public-private system and is considered among the most diverse in the Americas; even those stations owned by the state are considered to be independent of government influence. However, indigenous voices are not fairly represented in the mainstream Chilean press, and no political move has been made to improve this situation. There were no reported government restrictions on the internet in 2005.