Supreme Court refuses to consider lifting ban on controversial book

New York, August 29, 2001—The Chilean Supreme Court has refused to consider journalist Alejandra Matus’ appeal against the court-ordered banning of The Black Book of Chilean Justice, her muckraking book about the Chilean judiciary.
Matus’ book was banned more than two years ago. Since then, several court rulings have upheld the ban, even though a new press law, signed in May, repealed the infamous articles of the State Security Law under which the book was banned and Matus herself was charged with criminal defamation.

“The Supreme Court’s August 23 decision certainly casts a shadow over the recent repeal of some of Chile’s most notorious and restrictive press provisions,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

On June 2, two weeks after the new press law was ratified, the journalist’s brother and lawyer, Jean Pierre Matus, requested that Santiago Appeals Court judge Rubén Ballesteros close the case, drop the detention order against Matus, lift the ban on The Black Book, and release all impounded copies of the book.

Although Judge Ballesteros dismissed all charges related to the State Security Law, he upheld other charges against Matus, including those based on the Law on Publicity Abuses, even though the May press law repealed that statute entirely.

On appeal, the Santiago Appeals Court lifted the detention order against Matus, enabling the journalist to return to Chile from the United States, where she had been granted political asylum.

When Matus arrived on July 14, she and Jean Pierre filed a petition requesting that the Appeals Court lift the ban on her book. Both the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court declared the writ inadmissible.

On June 30, meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Servando Jordán, who brought the original 1999 defamation case against Matus, filed an appeal challenging the Appeals Court’s partial dismissal of the case. On July 25, Jean Pierre Matus filed his own appeal urging Judge Ballesteros to dismiss the case entirely. The court is not expected to rule on the appeals for another few months.