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Chile


Area : 756,630 sq.km.
Population : 16,295,000.
Language : Spanish.
Head of state: President Michelle Bachelet.

Chile - Annual report 2007

Physical attacks are still rare but the police and army have not lost repressive habits left over from the military dictatorship. Five journalists were physically attacked and three others arrested after a demonstration on 30 May.

Chile has a good name for press freedom compared with the rest of Latin America but has not yet finished settling accounts concerning the 1973-90 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who died on 10 December 2006 without being tried for murdering some 3,000 people during his rule, including 68 journalists and media assistants. Several TV journalists were attacked by his supporters on the eve of his funeral.

Journalists are still meeting a wall of silence about his regime and many complain of a persistent lack of diversity in the media. Jorge Molina, of the online daily El Mostrador.cl, was forced out of his job at the beginning of the year after posting the names of ex-torturers with the help of a group of former political prisoners.

Police and troops have not yet lost their bad habits of the dictatorship and journalists bore the brunt during the first big demonstration under President Michelle Bachelet, who took office in March. Eight journalists were attacked or arrested in front of the presidential palace in the 30 May protest demanding educational reform that was harshly repressed by police.

Cameramen Marco Cabrera, Gustavo Pavez and Libio Saavedra, of TV stations Red TV, Canal 13 and Canal 9, were stoned by police before being beaten on the ground. They and two photographers similarly beaten had to be hospitalised. Editor Julio Oliva of the weekly El Siglo and two other journalists were also forcibly taken to a police station, where they were told that their links to the Chilean Communist Party was reason enough to arrest them. The outcry at these attacks on the media led President Bachelet to dismiss the head of the special police forces, Osvaldo Jara, the next day.

The staff of the weekly Impacto received death threats from neo-Nazis, a year after the Valparaíso studios of the national TV station TVN had been defaced by them.

Press offences have still not been decriminalised and defamation suits are common, though they do not necessarily succeed.



 
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