Students organise and mobilise over reforms to public education

Peaceful Assembly

Several protests have taken place recently in Chile over newly-proposed legislation to reform the current educational system. For example, on 24th August 2017 students from the Coordinadora Nacional de Estudiantes Secundarios (National Coordination of Secondary School Students) and the Confederación de Estudiantes en Chile (Chilean Confederation of Students) marched to express their dissent with the proposed Public Education bill. It was reported that the protest ended in clashes with the police. The day before, a group of students chained themselves in the Education Ministry building as a form of protest. At least ten students were reportedly arrested. Other students-organised protests were reported to have taken place in August and September, and those also ended in clashes with the police.

In a separate incident, students from Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia occupied the Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena building in order to protest the treatment of indigenous Mapuche communities. Police reportedly dispersed the students and arrested at least 31. 

In addition, on 17th August 2017 it was reported that human rights organisations protested in front of the Embassy of Argentina in Santiago, Chile, demanding accountability for the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado who has not been found since 1st August during a clash between security forces and a Mapuche community in Argentina, an incident previously reported on the Monitor. The protest also resulted in clashes with security forces and at least five protesters were arrested. 

Expression

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a bill that can punish individuals for “incitement to violence based on discrimination”. This new law modifies the Criminal Liability of Legal Persons Act as well as the Chilean Press Law, namely by removing the regulation that previously punished such a violation with only a fine. The bill includes a new article in the Criminal Code that adds imprisonment and higher fines as potential punishment. The Asociación Nacional de Prensa (National Press Association) stated that the newly-signed law should guarantee “media independence, so media outlets won’t be liable when reproducing declarations made by a particular person”.

In a separate incident, it was reported that the government is planning to modify regulations regarding wire tapping and data retention. The updated regulations modify the time period when corporations are allow to retain data from one to two years. The regulation also broadens the type of data that could be retain. The president of the Instituto Chileno de Derecho y Tecnología (Chilean Institute of Law and Technology) expressed concern that the initiative seems to be characteristic of "totalitarian regimes" dedicated to "control people and watch behind their backs". The organisation Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights) considers the initiative unconstitutional and is also concerned that such a sensitive regulation was prepared “without proper consultation with experts and civil society organisations”.