journalists in Chile
• Déjŕ vu: Hernán Uribe
refused passport for "crimes of opinion" dating back
61 years and the Journalists Association reacts to
aggression against reporters
AS if we were still living under a dictatorship,
the Chilean state has once again refused a passport
to journalist Hernán Uribe Ortega (88 years of age).
Uribe was due to travel to Venezuela to present a
report related to attacks on journalists, to the
11th Congress of the Latin American Federation of
Journalists (FELAP), scheduled for September 1-2 in
Caracas. Co-founder of FELAP in 1976, he headed its
Attacks on Journalists Investigative Commission (CIAP-FELAP)
for 20 years.
The Uribe case has Kafkaesque overtones. Firstly,
the journalist was initially refused a passport in
2006, when he was invited to Mexico to receive an
award for his lifetime international labor union
work, and secondly, because the Chilean
Investigations Police (PDI) restriction order is
dated 1951, "justified" tat the time by a legal case
of "crime of opinion," brought by the Santiago Court
– which no longer exists – at the petition of the
Gabriel González Videla government (1946-1952).
Uribe was accused of criticisms which appeared in
the Democracia newspaper (which no longer
exists) of which he was the responsible editor, a
figure precisely created in order not to legally
expose the real editor.
In Chile, this restriction order generally lasts
five years for common crimes. The only exception to
this is in the case of crimes against humanity.
Paradoxically, Uribe, a columnist, reporter and
researcher into attacks on Latin American and
Caribbean journalists for 20 years, is now suffering
an attack on his own identity and his right to
movement within a globalized world.
Chilean passports are issued by the Civil
Registry and Identification Service (SRCEI),
attached to the Justice Ministry. The SRCEI has only
offered vague explanations and blames the PDI, which
has not updated its database for more than six years
and has placed the difficult burden of finding the
61-year-old restriction order in archives which are
not readily accessible on the claimant, as well as
papers considered locatable by a lawyer, a tedious
task requiring at least three months.
OTHER ATTACKS ON CHILEAN JOURNALISTS
The Chilean Journalists Association has stated it
will accompany members of Journalists National
Council to La Moneda Palace to demand that the
government take urgent legal action to increase
sentences for persons who attack journalists.
While Uribe has filed a legal appeal with the
support of the Journalists Association, Marcelo
Castillo, president of the national union, is to
meet with government spokesperson Andrés Chadwick to
discuss 30 cases of attacks on journalists during
the 2011-12 period.
In recent weeks various reporters, photographers
and camera operators have been attacked and, on
previous occasions, struck by hooded individuals
covering demonstrations in the street, while others
have even been arrested by the police. "When they
want to conceal the truth, journalists are always
the first to be attacked," Castillo said. "We are
working for citizens’ right to information, not out
of personal interest." (Mapocho Press 8-8-2012) •
*Ernesto Carmona, president of the Attacks on
Journalists Investigative Commission.