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Journalists protest judge's restriction on coverage of fraud case as "illegal and arbitrary"

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 25 May 2008, a judge of Santiago's Seventh Tribunal, Cecilia Pastene, forbade journalists from revealing the identity or broadcasting photographs of a lawyer accused of defrauding a client of 1.08 billion pesos pesos (approx. US$ 2,230,000). Her ruling also called for the removal of journalists from the courtroom where the charges against the lawyer were read.

The judge, in taking this measure, was acceding to a petition from the defence invoking an exceptional procedural option intended for use only in special cases, such as for the protection of minors.

In defiance of the judge's ruling, on 27 May the newspaper "El Mercurio" revealed the identity of the accused lawyer, Pedro Toledo Barrera, arguing that the judicial resolution contradicts the principles of access to information, of transparency in penal proceedings and of freedom of expression.

On 30 May, the dean of the Journalists' College, Luis Conejeros, and the president of a court journalists' group, Eric López, with the support of legal representative Alfredo Morgado, also presented before Santiago's Court of Appeals an appeal of the ruling.

The journalists' associations and the Human Rights Center of Diego Portales University point out that Judge Pastene's resolution affects the constitutional rights of the media, and consider it illegal and arbitrary.

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