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Chile - World Report 2009

56 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index

-  Area: 756,630 sq. km.
-  Population: 16,900,000
-  Language: Spanish
-  Head of state: Michelle Bachelet, since March 2006

The press suffers from excessive media concentration excessive. Legislation on community media is still waiting to be debated and voted on in Congress. Some subjects such as human rights violations under the dictatorship or the plight of the Mapucho indigenous people remain highly sensitive.

Security forces were responsible for several physical assaults against journalists during demonstrations, some of them quite violent, marring the start of the presidency of Michelle Bachelet, who had to personally intervene to condemn them. The most recent, involving a charge by a mounted policeman, left a photographer with the Spanish news agency EFE Victor Salas blind in one eye, while covering a demonstration in Valparaiso in May 2008. Military closing of ranks delayed investigation of this case for two months. This was an episode that had particular resonance in a country still scarred by memories of the military dictatorship (1973-1990), following the death of General Pinochet in 2006. The atrocities committed at the time remain a sensitive issue for the press. The plight of the Mapucho indigenous community in the south of the country is another. Two French documentary makers and two Italian film-makers covering this issue were briefly imprisoned within less than two months during 2008 on the false charge of “terrorist activities” before being expelled from the country. It appeared that Chilean documentary maker Elena Varela’s interest in the Mapucho counted against her when she was the target of legal proceedings over a common-law case. While Chile’s media is less exposed to threats to their safety than journalists in other countries in the region, there is a problem of excessive media concentration in the hands of two principal communications groups, Copesa and El Mercurio. The state provides them both with the equivalent of around five million dollars worth of official advertising a year at the expense of independent media. Community radio stations are often squeezed in a radio space more than 60% of which is held by Spanish group Prisa. The National Association of Community Radios in Chile (Anarcich) in January 2006 proposed a draft law to then president, Ricardo Lagos, who promised to send it to Congress. It was agreed by Michelle Bachelet in October 2007, but it is still waiting to be debated and voted on.

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