May 02, 2024 #ChileDemocratic

World Press Freedom Day: Chile's history and challenges 

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Freedom of the press in Chile has been legally protected since 2001. Although there are efforts to deepen this right, current threats such as disinformation and fake news put it at risk worldwide.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."[Art. 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights]. 

Freedom of the press is one of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948. Despite this, in the 76 years that have passed since then, the countries of the world have had different advances or setbacks in this area. Today, a new threat associated with new technologies is on the rise: disinformation and fake news are putting it at risk all over the world. 

Chile has also had a contradictory history in this regard, especially in the last 50 years, in which freedom of the press has gone through processes that have ranged from its prohibition to its constitutional guarantee. 

In spite of that, Chile guarantees in the Constitution and in the legal system this matter, aiming at safeguarding freedom of opinion, as well as the right to inform and be informed without prior censorship. Without thinking that everything has been done, there is an awareness in the country and this is something that was highlighted in the 31st version of the World Press Freedom Day, which this year was commemorated in Chile.

What legally protects press freedom in Chile and what are the global challenges?

Press Law (19,733)

Chile has had press legislation in place since 2001, known as the "Law on Freedom of Opinion and Information and the Practice of Journalism". The law, which took 11 years to be approved, constituted an important advance for press freedom, among other things allowing the repeal of the rules of contempt of the former Article 6 b) of the Law on Internal Security of the State. It also established who are journalists and enshrined the right to keep information sources confidential. 

The threat of disinformation

71% of the Chilean population believes that disinformation is a threat to our democracy, according to a survey by Activa Research. The fake news that is massively disseminated through social networks is one of the main threats to press freedom. At the end of 2023, UNESCO presented an action plan to combat disinformation, hate speech and manipulation on social networks, with seven principles that must be respected, along with concrete measures to be implemented by governments, regulatory authorities, civil society and the platforms themselves.

The importance of good journalism

Quality journalism is costly, yet today we see media outlets losing resources and funding. Global newspaper advertising revenues have fallen by half in the last five years, accentuating the crisis of traditional media, according to UNESCO figures. Thus, advertising revenues have rapidly shifted from mass media to Internet companies.

The international organization states that "governments, civil society and the private sector must act swiftly to promote credible journalism and create an environment more conducive to the viability of the media. At the same time, they must respect standards of editorial independence and freedom of expression".


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