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JULY 23, 2003

Televisión Nacional de Chile

The broadcasting of "Enigma," a documentary series on Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN), was temporarily barred by the Santiago Court of Appeals after the court argued the program violated the constitutional right to honor and privacy.

A panel of judges of the court ordered TVN not to air an episode of "Enigma" scheduled for broadcast on July 23. The program investigates and re-creates the circumstances surrounding the murder of Santiago lawyer Patricio Torres Reyes, who was stabbed to death and burned by two prostitutes after a sexual encounter in his office on December 17, 1999.

The case made headlines in the Chilean press, and the two prostitutes, sisters Nancy and Marcela Imil, were arrested and given lengthy prison sentences. TVN's lawyer, Juan Ignacio Correa Amunátegui, told CPJ that the research conducted by the "Enigma" investigative team suggests that one of the women arrested for the killing, Marcela Imil, was wrongfully convicted.

On Tuesday, July 22, the murdered lawyer's widow, Eugenia Hevia, requested that the Santiago Court of Appeals bar the program, arguing that it violated her and her children's constitutional right to honor and privacy. Hevia maintained that the broadcast of the television program would "cause unwarranted damage and discredit to the family."

On September 30, after hearing arguments from TVN's legal team, the court dismissed the order, putting an end to the censorship. The court's decision stated that "the public can and should be informed of certain events, which include the government's actions, parliamentary debates, new laws that are under consideration, court rulings and certain crimes that are in the public interest. The case "Enigma" was focusing on referred to a robbery, which also involved a homicide and a fire. It is a matter that is in the public interest and does not fall under the right to privacy."

The American Convention on Human Rights, which Chile ratified in 1990, clearly states that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression "shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability."