ON THE STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHILE
of “on the spot” Observations in
OF DISSEMINATION OF THOUGHT AND OF
– CRIMES OF OPINION
Freedom of Information
The letters exchanged between Patricio Aylwin, President of the Christian
Democrat Party “in recess” and General Oscar Bonilla, the then-Minister of
Interior, as a consequence of the fact that the Presidente Balmaceda radio
station had been placed under censorship beginning June 7, 1974 are a matter of
public record. This measure has not been applied to other radio stations, and it
does not appear to be based on constitutional provisions.
There is a general consensus that most of the radio stations have imposed
strict self-censorship on themselves to avoid making censorship more widespread.
Of course, not a single word of disagreement with the Government program nor the
most measured or respectful criticism of its actions are heard on the radio.
According to sources the Commission considers worthy of credit, in the
Presidente Balmaceda radio, the censorship imposed since June 7 has resulted in
the adoption, among others, of the following measures:
Prohibition of broadcasting the news comments of Professor Jaime Castillo
and the journalist Marta Caro;
Prior censorship of radio editorials and the commentaries of the
journalist Ignacio González, which made it necessary to suspend those programs;
Prior censorship of all news programs, including sports programs;
Censorship initially of some passages of the Encyclicals Quadragesimo
Anno, Matter at Magistra and Populorum Progressio. Censorship
was later extended to Rerum Novarum and to any quotation from the
Encyclicals referring to economic or social matters; and
Prohibiting the broadcast of certain musical compositions.
All of the orders of on these measures have been given orally.
According to the same sources, stricter prohibitions have been imposed on
television channels. They cannot broadcast any kind of program that might
conceivably lead to the free exchange of ideas on political or social questions
With regard to newspapers, those that have survived are subject to strict
standards of self-censorship. The complete elimination of political topics and
the rare unanimity of opinion on questions touching on the political field
clearly show that these media of expression and information lack freedom.
The restrictions extend to publishing houses. According to sources the
Commission considers reliable, one publisher has been prohibited from selling no
less than 20 editions, and has been ordered to destroy five.
The Crime of Opinion
In the preamble of Decree-Law 77, appear phrases like the following:
“Marxist doctrine encloses a concept of man and of society which impairs the
dignity of human beings”; “Marxist doctrine… is irreconcilable… with the
hierarchical and professional nature of the country's armed forces”; “The
mission of extirpating Marxism from Chile has fallen on the new
Based on a preamble of this kind, the above-mentioned Decree-Law Nº 77:
a) Has prohibited and declared illicit associations with “all those entities,
groups, factions or movements that maintain the Marxist doctrine” (Art. 1); b)
Has declared that “the mere fact of organizing, promoting or causing the
organizations of the unlawful associations referred to in the preceding article
constitutes a crime” (Art. 2); c) Has prohibited “any propaganda action,
orally, in writing or by any means of the Marxist doctrine or any other doctrine
substantially in agreement with its principles and objectives” (Art. 3); and
d) Has authorized, for infraction of the above-mentioned provisions, the
penalties of imprisonment and absolute disqualification for any kind of public
or semi-public office (Art. 4).
The mere fact of maintaining or disseminating a particularly political
philosophical doctrine has become a criminal act. The crime extends to any
expression of political, sociological, economic, historic or philosophical
thinking derived from the teachings of Karl Marx and his followers.
It should be noted that the decree-law does not refer to unlawful
intervention of foreign countries organized under totalitarian forms, that are
disposed to such interference. The decree-law flatly punishes the maintenance of
Hence the members of the Commission heard during their visit to Chile the
highest authorities of the country speak of “Marxism” (used generically this
way) as though that word labeled a criminal activity, and heard them maintain
that the Government should endeavor to “eradicate” that ideology. Whatever
the consequences of actions based on a particular ideology, in any event, and
whatever the value judgment merited by that kind of thinking, it is clear that
ideologies cannot be eliminated the way an epidemic disease or a serious social
vice is eliminated, if the basic principles of a representative democratic
system of government are to survive.
This deviation from the recognition of freedom of opinion is undoubtedly
the result of temporary political circumstances and emotional factors. It is to
be hoped that once they have both been overcome, the upholding or dissemination
of particular ideas will cease to be punished as a crime. However, it must be
noted for now that this has been classified as a criminal act in Chile, for the
avowed purpose of “eradicating” a particular conception of society and of
the causes of historical change. Undoubtedly we can disagree with that concept,
but the only way of eliminating it without paying too high a price is by the
appeal to reason and persuasion.
It is inadmissible that, because of the mere fact of upholding and
disseminating a certain ideology, a man becomes a kind of “untouchable”, who
it is considered legitimate to deprive of the possibility of working, deny him
the free expression of its thought, and even send him to jail.
It is inconsistent with the principle of equality before the law to
introduce discrimination among the citizenry, in an area so far from ideological
conviction as, for example, that of investigating the discharge of tax
obligations, by investigating only those who uphold a particular ideology.
The same is true for any other kind of State intervention in the life of
the inhabitants of a country, if the criteria for whether or not to intervene
consists solely of discrimination of an ideological kind.