Status: Free
Legal Environment: 10 (of 30)
Political Environment: 12 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 8 (of 30)
Total Score: 30 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Freedom of expression and the press is generally observed in Chile, but is hampered by a mistrustful judiciary, criminal press laws and military legal prohibitions that apply to civilians, and a concentration of press ownership that impedes political and cultural diversity in content. The Supreme Court in March briefly curtailed journalists' movements in the courthouse and restricted interviewing, but journalist groups' outcry prompted the court to rescind the decree after four days. The Supreme Court in August upheld the conviction of three Chilevisión journalists who used hidden cameras to tape a meeting between a sauna manager and a judge investigating a pedophilia case involving politicians. The journalists each received a three-month suspended jail sentence. The story caused an uproar because the judge was removed from the case after divulging that he frequented gay sex establishments. At least two non-fiction books remain banned in Chile by court order, even though censorship no longer officially exists. On a positive note, the Bachelet government filed legislation in October that if passed would solidify the financial and legal position of the country's 400 licensed community radio stations. While celebrating the bill, the World Association of Community radio broadcasters called for restrictions on the territorial range and power of the stations to be lifted.

While violence against the press is limited in Chile, stories involving the 1973-1990 dictatorship remain sensitive. Argentine freelance TV journalist Benjamín Avila and his Chilean assistants Mario Puerto and Arturo Peraldi were arrested while covering a protest in front of the house of a former military officer suspected in the 1973 killing of foreign journalist Leonardo Henrichsen. They were beaten while in custody, and then released after the journalists association protested. Avila received death threats while in the hospital. Association officers received similar threats.

Press ownership is highly concentrated in the hands of two companies that received preferential treatment during the conservative military dictatorship that left power in 1989. This concentration and politically cautious advertisers are often offered as explanations for press docility. Job insecurity and an oversupply of journalists may also make reporters cautious. A survey of recent journalism graduates for the Superior Education Council, released in December, estimated that journalism schools are graduating nine times more journalists than there are jobs; 33% of recent graduates aren't working in journalism, even part-time, which is three times the national unemployment rate; 40% have a second job; 64% make less than $400 a month; and less than 15% receive non-salary benefits such as healthcare. More than 44 percent of Chileans accessed the internet during the year.

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