CIVICUS

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Chile

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Last updated on 22.07.2019 at 12:54

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New mass surveillance system concerns Chilean civil society

New mass surveillance system concerns Chilean civil society

Civil society organisations have issued a public statement rejecting President Piñera's new Mobile Surveillance System, which uses facial recognition and other technologies to monitor public spaces. In the period covered by this update, thousands of Chilean teachers have been on strike mobilising for improvements in the public education system.

Expression

Chile has been downgraded for the third year in a roll in Reporters Without Borders' 2019 World Press Freedom Index. In 2016 Chile reached the 31st place, but it has since fallen to the 46th position. The report highlights the problems journalists face in covering certain subjects, particularly political corruption and the long-standing conflict between the Chilean state and Mapuche communities. It also underscores that confidentiality of sources is often violated. According to the report, in Chile “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”.

In a separate development, a group of 28 civil society organisations and nearly 70 experts have issued a public statement rejecting President Piñera's new Mobile Surveillance System launched on the 18th May 2019. The system was created under Chile's "Calle Segura" (Safe Street) plan and will use drones and cameras to monitor public areas, aiming to fight crime and improve coordination of security agencies. This surveillance system is starting with a fleet of 8 drones equipped with high definition cameras, facial recognition technology and capacity to register and transmit images in real-time. According to Chilean authorities, there are plans to extend the system to cover the whole country as early as 2020.

In the analysis of Derechos Digitales and other organisations that have spoken out against the initiative, this system violates fundamental rights and implies a drawback for human rights in Chile. In their statement, these organisations have said:

"This new national policy institutes a mass surveillance technology in public space, using a level of intrusion and mobility never seen before in Chile, and it is the expression of a State seeking to increase social control (...)"

Peaceful Assembly

Thousands of Chilean teachers have been on strike since 3rd June 2019. Multiple marches have been called in support of the national strike and over 90,000 teachers have taken part in the mobilisation, which started with a call from Chile's largest teacher union, the Colegio de Profesores de Chile (CPC).  On 8th July 2019, Chilean Education Minister Marcela Cubillos met CPC representatives to discuss a proposal to address demands and end the strike. The union's president Mario Aguilar encouraged teachers to accept the government’s offer but the proposal was initially voted down by union members. On 22nd July 2019, as the strike entered its 8th week, a new vote from CPC's constituency showed a majority of teachers in favour of stopping the mobilisation, which was followed by the announcement of the end of the strike.

Association in Chile

The right to form organisations is largely respected in Chile. Legislation enacted in 2013 introduced a simple registration system that is applied in a non-discriminatory manner.

The right to form organisations is largely respected in Chile. Legislation enacted in 2013 introduced a simple registration system that is applied in a non-discriminatory manner. The government does not exercise any powers to arbitrarily deny registration, deregister, or interfere with CSOs. Harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders are infrequent. When such attacks do occur, they tend to target indigenous leaders. For example, human rights defender and indigenous leader Juana Calfunao was the victim of judicial harassment and in 2015 she was arbitrarily arrested and beaten by the police while protesting against the construction of a road in the Mapuche community's ancestral lands.


Peaceful Assembly in Chile

Although demonstrations in Chile are generally allowed in practice, legislation governing public gatherings does not comply with international standards.

Although demonstrations in Chile are generally allowed in practice, legislation governing public gatherings does not comply with international standards. The Supreme Decree 1086, originally issued by military dictator Augusto Pinochet, imposes strict authorisation requirements and gives powers to the police to dissolve or impede protests in cases of late notification. The relevant authority may also deny protests in spaces that could disrupt public transit. In practice, protests are frequently subject to time and place limitations. Protests are often peaceful, but reports indicate that agents provocateurs frequently disrupt protests, causing violence and destruction of property. Documentation of the disproportionate use of force by the police against peaceful protesters highlights that indigenous protests in southern Chile are especially targeted. For instance, in September 2015, the police used excessive force to disperse Mapuche community activists peacefully occupying a government building in the city of Temuco.


Expression in Chile

Limits to free expression in Chile stem from media ownership by a small group as a result of legislation enacted during the military regime.

Limits to free expression in Chile stem from media ownership by a small group as a result of legislation enacted during the military regime. This lack of diversity has reduced the space for independent media in the country.Chile adopted an Access to Information Law in 2008, and rates of response to information requests are generally satisfactory. Although violence against journalists is rare in Chile, topics such as human rights violations committed during the dictatorship remain extremely sensitive. For example, a journalist investigating such issues was threatened, harassed and robbed in 2012. Criminal defamation is still in place and recently a court in Santiago convicted the directors of the newspaper El Ciudadano to 540 days of incarceration for the crime of aggravated defamation.