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More than 20 years after the restoration of democracy, Chile’s media still bear the scars of the military dictatorship, both as regards legislation and the way they operate in practice. Media ownership is concentrated in few hands, media offences are still criminalized and journalists are often the victims of police violence while covering street protests.
Chile is characterized by an excessive concentration of media ownership, and consequently a marked lack of pluralism. About 95 per cent of all print media are owned by two privately-owned media groups, El Mercurio and Copesa, which are the sole recipients of government subsidies under a system set up during the dictatorship.
Nearly 60 per cent of radio stations are owned by the privately-owned Spanish group Prisa. Consequently independent media outlets such as community radio stations struggle to survive economically since no legal framework exists to ensure a fair distribution of frequencies among the different types of broadcast media.
Community media are criminalized under article 36b of General Telecommunications Law No. 18.168, passed in 1982 during the dictatorship. This provides for fines and imprisonment for broadcasting without a legal frequency. Using this article, the equipment of Radio Vecina was seized and its representative Víctor Díaz was arrested in Collipulli in the Araucania region in August 2012.
As well as having to contend with a legal system that is detrimental to freedom of information and criminalizes press offences such as defamation, journalists covering protests and demonstrations are often the victims of police abuses. There have been many cases of assault and arbitrary arrests by the carabinero police during the student protests that have been in the news since 2011. When arrested, reporters are rarely held for very long, but their photos and videos are often deleted, which constitutes censorship.
Journalists covering protests in the Aysén region suffered violence at the hands of the police in 2012, reinforcing concern about the consequences of the application of the State Security Law, which dates back to the 1973-1990 dictatorship and has not been amended since then. The 1984 Anti-Terrorism Law, which has been used against Chilean and foreign journalists in the region, is also cause for concern.
Coverage of some subjects such as human rights violations during the dictatorship or the plight of the Mapuche Indians remains sensitive. Several journalists who have investigated the dictatorship, such as Mauricio Weibel Barahona, have been subjected to harassment, robberies and threats.
Chile was the first country to have the principle of net neutrality for Internet users and service providers written into law (Law No. 20453 of 18 August 2010). It guarantees the free flow of information online.
Updated in July 2013
Chile - 26 November 2013
Chile - 18 December 2012