FREEDOM OF DISSEMINATION OF THOUGHT AND OF
INFORMATION – CRIMES OF OPINION
A. Freedom of Information
1. 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:
a) Prohibition of broadcasting the news comments of Professor Jaime Castillo and the journalist Marta Caro;
b) Prior censorship of radio editorials and the commentaries of the journalist Ignacio González, which made it necessary to suspend those programs;
c) Prior censorship of all news programs, including sports programs;
d) 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
e) Prohibiting the broadcast of certain musical compositions.
All of the orders of on these measures have been given orally.
2. 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
3. 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.
4. 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.
B. The Crime of Opinion
1. 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 Government….”
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 an ideology.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.