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Chile2 April 2007

Supreme court rescinds controversial restrictions on press reporting

The supreme court has rescinded the decree it issued on 26 March restricting the movements of journalists within courthouses and their ability to conduct interviews while there. The decree, which the supreme court justices approved unanimously, prompted such an outcry in the Chilean press that the court was forced to announce on 30 March that it would “not take effect.” Reporters Without Borders hails the fact that common sense finally prevailed.

27.03.2007 - Supreme court decision to limit media access condemned as unconstitutional

Reporters Without Borders today expressed dismay over a Supreme Court ruling made yesterday supposedly aimed at regulating the work of journalists accredited to work in the country’s courts.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it shared the view of the Chilean press that the decision, which cannot be appealed, was damaging to press freedom.

The Supreme Court ruling, initiated by Judge Ricardo Gálvez and backed at a closed-doors plenary session, specifies that the press should “respect the privacy of magistrates, prosecutors, clerks, judges and secretaries while moving around court buildings and associated car parks”.

It also lays down that journalists must desist from “approaching court officials without their consent and disturbing them with camera flashes or lighting or video recordings”. The law was adopted by 16-2. One of the two voting against was the Supreme Court president, Enrique Tapia.

“Court decisions are public in any democracy. The Supreme Court’s judgement is both inappropriate and contrary to the constitutional reform of 2005,” said Reporters Without Borders. “Article 8 of this fundamental law lays down that ‘acts and resolutions of state bodies are considered to be public’. We hope that the constitutional court will, if consulted, reverse this ruling.”

The court press association and the Chilean College of Journalists have strongly criticised the decision which they described as an “attack on the right to inform the public”. They announced that they intended to appeal, although only the constitutional court, which is independent of the Supreme Court, has the power to overturn the ruling.

Despite some positive movement in favour of press coverage of trials, particularly criminal cases, access to courts by the Chilean press remains limited. In the higher jurisdictions - appeal courts and the Supreme Court - it depends on the goodwill of the judges.

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in the annual report
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