The Nov. 15 presidential debate has been moved up half an hour. In addition, there will be “fact-checkers,” a move supported by candidate Gabriel Boric. This news comes as the presidential race and political tensions are heating up to a near fever pitch.
The National Television Association (ANATEL), an organization of all national free-to-air channels in the country, has decided to start the Nov. 15 presidential debate at 8:00 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m. This decision follows the considerable public backlash about the Oct. 11 debate being broadcast too late. As an ANATEL official explained, the earlier broadcast is designed to “facilitate community access.”
The other change to the debate – arguably the most significant – is the addition of a fact-checking system that will be operating throughout the debate.
There has been much discussion over “fake news” and the need to reduce it in the wake of both of the previous presidential debates. For instance, in the first debate, José Antonio Kast spread misinformation by contending that the mortality rate among women in countries with legal abortion is higher; while in the second presidential debate, Eduardo Artés had to be corrected by moderator and journalist Mónica Pérez for claiming that only 37.5 percent of Cubans had been vaccinated against Coronavirus.
Significant misinformation has gone unrebutted during the debates, most notably the claim from Jose Antonio Kast that members of the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) witnessed the death of Denisse Cortés and failed to act. The INDH subsequently released the following statement:
Given the statements of José Antonio Kast, we find ourselves obliged to reiterate that INDH officials were not witnesses to the events that led to the death of Denisse Cortés. The photos that circulate on social networks do not correspond to INDH observers.
Read more about the last debate:
Fact checkers in a debate
These cases of misinformation, and the failure of moderators to counter them, prompted presidential candidate Gabriel Boric to write a letter to ANATEL on Oct. 26 asking them to incorporate a system into the Nov. 15 debate to combat fake news in real time.
Boric contends that it is paramount that “the debates and exchange of ideas between the candidates are honest, making us responsible for providing citizens with real data that contributes to informing and not the opposite, because it is their right.” Consequently, he asked that ANATEL and other presidential candidates endorse having “an impartial team to check data within the debate.”
As a result of this pressure, the press department of TVN and factchecking.cl operated by the Faculty of Communications of Catholic University, the oldest fact-checking organisation in Chile, announced that they would team up to verify information that the candidates give in their speeches. The results of these fact-checks will be published on 24horas.cl and factchecking.cl and will also be part of the 24 Horas Central newscast. These organizations will also make available previous investigations into the veracity of prior statements that candidates have made.
The Nov. 15 debate is the last time presidential candidates will be able to deliver their vision to a national audience and challenge opponents before the presidential election. Given the polarization in the country, and the tension that exists over issues such as pensions, immigration, and COVID-19, it remains to be seen whether the fact-checking, the election, or anything else will calm things down.
Harry McKenna is a postgraduate student studying American History at the University of Sheffield. His interests include politics, foreign affairs, and history and he is seeking to cover international politics. He is currently interning at Chile Today.