Reporters Without Borders today condemned the removal and confiscation of the hard disks of two computers belonging to the online newspaper El Mostrador on 27 April. The seizure was ordered under an anti-terrorist law by a judge investigating the 24 March bombing of the Brazilian consulate in Santiago. The equipment was returned the day after.
"This confiscation is a violation of the confidentiality of sources, a cornerstone of press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to Gloria Ana Chevesich, the judge who issued the order. "If the confidentiality of sources is not respected, people will stop giving information to journalists and society’s right to be informed will be seriously harmed."
Reporters Without Borders pointed out that article 8 of the Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says "every journalist has the right to keep his/her source of information, notes, personal and professional archives confidential."
Police seized the two hard disks from the offices of El Mostrador (www.elmostrador.cl) on the morning of 27 April. The judge’s order said the purpose was "to copy and analyse the hard disks in order to obtain information as to the existence of a new e-mail claiming the bombing." The two hard disks were returned to the daily on 28 April afternoon.
The two computers contained an e-mail message claiming responsibility for the bombing that was signed by the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), an extreme left-wing group. It was received shortly after the bomb went off. However, one of the MIR’s leaders denied that the group was in any way involved in a second e-mail message sent to the newspaper the next day.
The two computers were those of El Mostrador editor Lino Solís de Ovando G. and the head of its legal section, Jorge Molina Sanhueza. Police had already checked the content of Molina’s computer a few weeks ago, with his agreement, without finding anything.
El Mostrador was told on the evening of 26 April that police were coming to inspect Solís’ computer, but it was not told that computers would be confiscated. The newspaper has condemned the seizure as a violation of the confidentiality of sources.