Government scraps plan to force journalists to inform police

23.01.2012 - Santiago - Reporters Sans Frontières

“Congress has been instructed not to approve it,” Mauricio Weibel, president of the association of foreign correspondents in Chile, confirmed to Reporters Without Borders.

The bill, known as the “Hinzpeter Law”, was submitted to Congress on 1 October last year in response to student protests. As originally drafted, it contained provisions to criminalize expressions of opinion, and to grant “a new power for the law enforcement and security forces, under which they can request the voluntary transmission of recordings, film or other electronic media material that may serve to substantiate the existence of crimes or participation in crimes, without a prior order from the [state prosecutor](http://en.rsf.org/chile-bill-would-criminalize-protests-06-10-2011,41137.html)”.

“With the ‘Hinzpeter Law’, there was a real risk of seeing journalists become accessories to the police, in contravention of constitutional principles concerning freedom of expression and information,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“While we welcome the news that this section has been withdrawn, the bill is still in the hands of Congress. The summer holiday period means its discussion – and, we hope, rejection – by the lower house and the Senate has been postponed until March.

“This inappropriate and dangerous legislation must be scrapped as a matter of urgency.”

Reporters Without Borders hopes that a letter on the subject sent to members of Congress by the [Chilean College of Journalists](http://www.colegiodeperiodistas.cl/index.php/component/content/article/2-uncategorised/158)
will be favourably received.

The scheduled withdrawal of this section of the “Hinzpeter Law” is an encouraging symbol at the end of what has been a difficult year for Chilean and foreign journalists in the country, who have often been abused for reporting on many demonstrations in the country, not just those by [students](http://en.rsf.org/chile-more-media-freedom-violations-18-10-2011,41233.html).

Besides calling for steps to be taken to guarantee their security, Reporters Without Borders continues to press for a full debate, a subject first raised during the demonstrations, on [media pluralism](http://en.rsf.org/chile-citizen-activism-challenges-17-08-2011,40799.html) in Chile and the legal framework that would make this possible.

Also at issue is the need to overhaul the legislation on community media and radio stations.

Categories: International issues, Press Releases, South America

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Freedom of expression and of information will always be the world’s most important freedom. If journalists were not free to report the facts, denounce abuses and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of children-soldiers, defend women’s rights, or preserve our environment? In some countries, torturers stop their atrocious deeds as soon as they are mentioned in the media. In others, corrupt politicians abandon their illegal habits when investigative journalists publish compromising details about their activities. Still elsewhere, massacres are prevented when the international media focuses its attention and cameras on events. Freedom of information is the foundation of any democracy. Yet almost half of the world’s population is still denied it. rsf.org

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