Defamation Laws In Chile

In Chile, the crimes of calumny and slanderous allegation (injurias) are covered by Articles 412 to 431 of the Penal Code. Imprisonment shall range from 61 days to five (5) years. According to Article 431 of the Penal Code, the action for libel or slander prescribes a year from which the victim had or could reasonably have knowledge of the offense, which in no case shall an action for defamation or libel be brought after five years, counting from the time the offense was committed.

The Chilean Penal Code, contains several articles that make it a crime to insult public officials. Journalists are particularly vulnerable to prosecution under these laws. In a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Eduardo Yáñez, a regular panelist on Chilevisión’s debate show “El Termómetro,” was convicted with “disrespect” after he criticized the Supreme Court during a November 27, 2001, broadcast. On January 15, 2002, a judge initiated proceedings against Yáñez and was detained overnight. On December 2002, the Chilean Court of Appeals convicted Yáñez to 18 months prison, In addition to jail time, the court ordered the journalist, who is also a businessman and an environmental activist, to pay a US$425 fine.

However, in a recent report on February 26, 2010 by the CPJ, libel charges against freelance journalist Pascale Bonnefoy, after writing a story on a military official Edwin Dimter Bianchi, also known as “The Prince,” who was allegedly responsible for brutally beating political prisoners after the country’s 1973 coup, was dismissed by the Santiago tribunal based on four witnesses’ testimonies. The witnesses consistently indicated that Dimter was “The Prince,” and described the abuses committed in the detention center, according to the ruling.