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Chile31 July 2003

Court ban on TV programme condemned as anachronistic

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the banning of programme on the public TV station Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN) on 23 July by a decision of the Santiago appeal court that was taken in response to a defamation suit.

"This is an utterly anachronistic case of censorship," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard, calling on the Chilean authorities to repeal the laws that give the courts such powers, and to thereby bring Chile’s legislation in line with both its own constitution and the international treaties it has signed.

Article 13 of the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights expressly forbids censorship, even in cases of defamation. Censorship is also banned by the Chilean constitution, of which article 19 (12) guarantees "the freedom to express opinions and inform without prior censorship."

The banned programme, "Enigma," which raised doubts about the guilt of one of the presumed perpetrators of the murder of lawyer Patricio Torres Reyes, was the subject of a lawsuit by the lawyer’s widow, alleging that the programme was an offence to the family’s dignity and honour.

The programme’s producer Patricio Polanco complained that neither the widow, nor her lawyers, nor the judges ever viewed the programme.

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