Chilean TV journalist suspended for satirizing former dictator's tribute

By Liliana Honorato

Chilean reporter was suspended after satirizing a tribute to the former dictator Augusto Pinochet during the news program “Ultima Mirada” on the channel Chilevisión. Despite much criticism, the Chilean TV station denied taking the reporter off the air, reported the digital newspaper El Mostrador.

After an interview with Juan González, organizer of the controversial tribute to Pinochet and president of the Sept. 11 Corporation, sports journalist Víctor Gómez said "we will wait for the smell of sulfur (smell of hell) to dissipate a little from the studio to focus on soccer," before starting his sports program, reported the newspaper La Cuarta.

According to La Cuarta, Chilevisión said that the journalist wasn't fired, but he was warned for violating the channel's editorial guidelines, adding that Gómez only works as a substitute when other official commentators are not present. After these statements, the reporter requested that the channel correct this information, reported Radio Bío-Bío.

A few days after the incident, a BBC Mundo news journalist tried to ask Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, about the controversial tribute to Pinochet. The interview was then abruptly ended by Piñera and his advisers, who refused to answer the question that the journalist said was only about freedom of expression in Chile, reported the newspaper La Tercera.

President Piñera, who recently was praised for energetically defending an independent press and the importance of press freedom in Chile, said that he didn't answer the question because "those issues should be dealt with in Chile and not outside of Chile," and he added that he was against the Pinochet dictatorship, reported Radio Cooperativa.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.