May 04, 2024 #ChileDemocratic

World Press Freedom Day: legislative advances in Chile

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From the enshrinement of the right to freedom of the press in the 1925 Constitution, to the enactment of the Press Law in 2001, to a new bill under discussion in Congress that seeks to protect communications workers, Chile continues to make progress in strengthening this fundamental right.

Freedom of the press, enshrined in the right to freedom of expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, plays a fundamental role in democratic systems, both in promoting social progress and in combating new threats. 

According to the Reporters Without Borders 2024 ranking, which evaluates 180 countries, Chile ranks fourth in Latin America in terms of press freedom and 52nd worldwide, which represents a jump of 31 places compared to 2023. This report reflects the situation in the region, where in some cases, practicing journalism entails tragic consequences. Threats such as organized crime, technological advances or disinformation have motivated Chile to strengthen the legal protection of the practice of journalism over time.

Legislative advances in press freedom in Chile

It was in 1970 when freedom of the press and freedom of expression in our country was enshrined in the 1925 Constitution, following an amendment to the text. This was expressed in: "the freedom to issue, without prior censorship, their opinions, by word or in writing, through the press, radio, television or in any other form, without prejudice to answer for the crimes and abuses committed in the exercise of this freedom, in the manner and cases determined by law".

State Internal Security Law (12.927)

Although this right was enshrined in the country's Political Constitution, since 1958 there had existed the Law of Internal Security of the State (12.927), which punished as a crime of public order those who "defame, injure or slander" authorities of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches. This article (6b) was repealed with the creation of the Press Law (19.733) which would be enacted in 2001. 

During the military dictatorship, this law was reformed to increase the penalties and broaden the punishable conducts, which led to the imprisonment of journalists. In addition, Decree No. 1281 allowed the suspension of the printing, distribution and sale of newspapers and magazines for up to six editions.

Advertising Abuse Law (16.643)

This law was created in 1967 and referred to freedom of expression as a basis for democracy. Article 1 of this law stated: "The publication of opinions by the printing press, and, in general, the public transmission by any means of the oral or written word, is not subject to any prior authorization or censorship". However, it does not mention the practice of journalism. It was repealed with the enactment of the Press Law of 2001. 

Press Law (19,733)

It was in 1993, when then President Patricio Aylwin sent to Congress a bill on "freedom of opinion and information and the exercise of journalism", later known as the Press Law. However, it would be almost 10 years before it materialized. The law addresses issues relating to who is recognized as a journalist and what rights they are entitled to. It establishes the "off the record" for journalists and also considers elements related to the media industry, such as the requirements that newspapers must meet in order to operate and what measures to guarantee pluralism must be applied by the State.

There are other laws that, although not directly aimed at safeguarding freedom of the press or the practice of journalism, do contribute to greater access to information for journalists and civil society. Examples are the Transparency Law of 2008 or the Lobby Law of 2014.

The Congress is currently discussing a bill that seeks to regulate the protection of journalists and people working in communications. The initiative seeks to prevent acts of violence against communications workers and aims to protect and guarantee their safety, freedom and integrity.


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