Miami, June 9, 2020 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned a decision by the Chilean Supreme Court ordering the independent news outlet Radio Bío Bío to take down the audio and transcript of a phone call published in a news article.
On May 19, the third chamber of the Chilean Supreme Court ruled that Radio Bío Bío had illegally published a recorded conversation between local judge Marcela Guerra and political operative John Campos, and ordered the outlet to remove the recording from its website and anywhere else it had been posted, according to Radio Bío Bío director Tomás Mosciatti Olivieri, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and a copy of the court decision, which CPJ reviewed.
Radio Bío Bío published the phone conversation and its transcript on April 17, 2019. In the call, Campos and Guerra can be heard discussing plans to influence judiciary appointments and disciplinary proceedings, according to news reports.
Following the ruling, Radio Bío Bío removed the audio and call transcript from its article on the incident.
“CPJ is concerned by the Chilean Supreme Court’s decision forcing Radio Bío Bío to take down content that served the public interest,” said CPJ South and Central America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “This troubling ruling undercuts journalists’ ability to cover sensitive political subjects in Chile.”
Campos filed suit against the broadcaster on May 17, 2019, alleging that Radio Bío Bío’s publication of the call, which was recorded without his knowledge, breached his right to honor, a constitutional provision similar to defamation, according to a copy of Campos’ complaint, which CPJ reviewed.
Guerra recorded the call and provided it to Radio Bío Bío, according to the Court of Appeals ruling, which CPJ reviewed.
In October 2019, the Court of Appeals rejected Campos’ case citing the constitutional prohibition on prior censorship; the Supreme Court’s decision overruled the appeals court, finding that the publication of the call without Campos’ authorization breached his right to honor, according to the text of the Supreme Court decision.
“We could not risk being found in contempt of the decision of the Supreme Court, but we are considering taking the matter to the Inter-American Court,” Mosciatti told CPJ. “This is unacceptable and we will not allow this to happen.”
Radio Bío Bío is a privately owned radio conglomerate that covers news throughout Chile, according to Mosciatti.
CPJ emailed the Chilean judiciary for comment, but did not receive any reply.