SANTIAGO – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) recently released the 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Chile fell five rungs in comparison to 2019 and is now at place 51 of the ranking. That means Chile is no longer among the 50 countries in the world with more freedom of press.
The World Press Freedom Index, released annually since 2013 by the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has shown a downward trend on freedom of press in Chile. For the fourth year in a row, the country has fallen on the ranking and now finds itself at place 51. It fell five rungs compared to the index last year, when it held the 46th position.
The RSF report mentioned that reporters in Chile are often targeted when covering demonstrations. Another problem in the country, stated by the NGO, is that “pluralism and democratic debate are limited by the concentration of media ownership and the difficulties that community media encounter in ensuring their long-term survival.”
RSF evaluates the safety of journalists in 180 countries. Back in 2016, Chile reached the 31st position on the list, but since then it has only gone down, which demonstrates freedom of press in the country is only worsening.
The 2019 protests tensioned the scenario for the media, as reporters were constantly attacked during demonstrations. About that, RSF released a statement saying that they were “extremely concerned” about the attacks targeting journalists and that “the government must guarantee journalists’ safety throughout the country.”
The 2020 World Press Freedom Index also weighed in on why the country dropped five rungs. “Violent protests triggered by a Santiago metro fare hike led to many cases of targeted harassment and physical attacks against journalists and media outlets throughout the country.”
Latin America Shows Decrease In Freedom Of Press
In 2019 only three Latin American countries were among the 50 countries with more freedom of press: Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Chile. The 2020 report shows that only Costa Rica and Uruguay were able to remain among the top 50 and no other Latin American country was able to reach that high.
Chile is not the only Latin American country that has fallen on the annual world press freedom ranking. Cuba is among the worst-rated countries, in 2019 it held the 169th place and this year the island finds itself down at the 171st position.
Apart from Cuba, the worst-ranked Latin American countries on the 2020 index are: Honduras (148), Venezuela (147), Mexico (143), Colombia (130), and Nicaragua (116). Mexico and Venezuela moved up one rung in comparison to 2019, while Honduras, Colombia, and Nicaragua all fell on the ranking.
RSF explained that the region is not doing well in freedom of press, and corruption plays an important role in the matter. “Mexican, Honduran, Colombian and Brazilian journalists sometimes pay with their lives for investigating drug trafficking or corruption. Cuban and Venezuelan journalists are under constant pressure from governments that use all possible means to censor independent media outlets,” states the NGO.
Chilean Journalist Accuses His Freedom Of Press Is Not Being Respected
The Ámbar Cornejo case has been widely covered by the media, as it turned into a national scandal. Journalist Francisco Pulgar is an example of how journalists sometimes see their freedom of press restricted.
Last week, prosecutor María José Bowen accused Pulgar of obstructing the investigation. “He came with a jacket that read forensic expert, entered the crime scene, and carried out alleged investigation procedures without authorization,” said the prosecutor.
Pulgar’s response was that there were no indications the property was off limits, as it was not yet a crime scene. “I only talked to the family with the sole objective of informing. I did not carry out any type of investigations or excavations, as it is claimed.”
Canal 13 (Channel 13) also responded to the controversy and assured that forensic expert and journalist Franciso Pulgar did not enter the crime scene but rather María Inés Perez’s house (mother of the accused), who invited him in because she wanted to give her testimony.
Francisco Pulgar assured that he will “continue investigating and working for the truth, justice, and equality, so that all citizens have access and understand how the investigation of a case is carried out, so that we do not regret more unsolved crimes just because the law does not respect freedom of the press and investigation.”
Edited by Claudio Moraga
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant