Journalist sentenced to 18 months in prison

New York, December 18, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is disturbed by a Chilean court’s decision to sentence television commentator Eduardo Yáñez to 18 months in prison.

Earlier today, the Chilean Court of Appeals convicted Yáñez, a panelist on Chilevisión’s debate show “El Termómetro,” of “disrespect.” 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.

The sentence stemmed from a November 2001 episode of “El Termómetro” in which Yáñez described the Chilean judiciary as “immoral, cowardly, and corrupt” for not providing compensation to a woman who had been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit.

Yáñez told CPJ that the decision set a bad precedent for freedom of expression in Chile. He said he plans to fight the decision “on constitutional grounds.” He has six days to appeal before being sent to prison.

“We condemn this prosecution and urge the government to reform the ‘disrespect’ provisions,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Subjecting journalists to criminal prosecution stifles public debate and inhibits the full development of Chilean democracy.”