TV commentator cleared of “disrespect” charges

New York, April 4, 2003—Chile’s Sixth Chamber of the Santiago Appeals Court overturned the conviction of Chilean TV commentator Eduardo Yáñez, who was convicted of “disrespect” earlier this year.

On Wednesday, April 2, the appeals court ruled that “even though the expressions voiced by Yáñez can be qualified as excessive, vulgar, or ignorant, they do not constitute the crime of disrespect.”

Yáñez, who is also a businessman and environmental activist, was convicted of disrespect on January 31, when Judge Juan Manuel Muñoz Pardo imposed a two-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of US$460. Yáñez was required to appear every two months before Chile’s Gendarmerie.

The sentence stemmed from a November 2001 episode on Chilevisión’s debate show “El Termómetro,” during 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. The Chilean Supreme Court then filed a criminal complaint against Yáñez.

Yáñez told CPJ that Wednesday’s ruling is a “step forward in terms of freedom of expression” in Chile but added, “Congress must eliminate the crime of disrespect” from the books. In September 2002, the government of President Ricardo Lagos introduced a bill to amend several articles of the Penal Code and the Code of Military Justice that impose criminal penalties for insulting the honor or dignity of public officials.