Freedom for Chilean Newspapers

According to the Washington Post, Chile has withdrawn a tyrannical proposed law to terrorize journalists.

Chile’s government is backing down on a plan that would have empowered police to force news media to surrender images without a court order, effectively turning photographers and cameramen into potential tools of the state…. Seizing images from news media without court orders is virtually unprecedented in Latin America. In Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela, for example, there are no laws enabling police to unilaterally seize material. Even with a judicial order, Argentina’s media generally challenge such seizures on constitutional grounds.

After a media outcry, Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter personally called the foreign correspondents association to say he was eliminating the idea from his plan for giving police tough new ways to crack down on unauthorized social protests.

“It was completely unexpected,” association president Mauricio Weibel said Thursday. “He said he didn’t want any conflicts with the international press and so was personally withdrawing the proposal.”

Weibel and other media leaders had warned lawmakers and aides to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera that seizing journalists’ material would damage Chile’s image internationally. He noted the international media freedom group Reporters Without Borders next week will publish its annual review of threats against the media, including a freedom index showing a sharp drop in Chile’s reputation.

Weibel said free speech advocates should keep lobbying against the rest of the proposed “Hinzpeter Law,” which would punish by up to three years in prison anyone convicted of violently occupying schools, hospitals, highways or public spaces or of promoting acts of “disorder” such as “paralyzing a public service” or impeding commuters from reaching their jobs.

According to the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2010, Chile is a middling performer in protecting the rights of journalists.

Country Rating
USA 20
Canada 21
Costa Rica 29
Chile 33
Hong Kong 34
Uruguay 37
Argentina 55
Brazil 58
Mexico 136
Singapore 136

Venture capitalist Arnon Kohavi, who recently left Chile and moved to Singapore, may find his new home to be more congenial than Chile to invest in businesses, but it is a worse place to be a journalist!

According to Reporters Without Borders:

The explosion of a home-made bomb outside the headquarters of the media company Copesa, publisher of the daily La Tercera, and cyber-attacks on three news websites during the past few days have punctured the non-existent dialogue between the government and the vast, student-led protest movement that has rocked Chile since the start of the year.

Amid mounting social tension and outbreaks of violence at the generally peaceful demonstrations, journalists are increasingly exposed to hostility and police repression. Reporters Without Borders fears a negative effect on the media and on the public debate that Chile badly needs.

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