While media reports and U.S.-based human rights organizations tend to focus on attacks on the press in countries that have elected left leaders, the closing of La Nación in Chile has generated next to nothing from those some organizations and media outlets.
It was announced this week that La Nación, the 70 percent state-owned news outlet, would be closed. The print edition had already been shut down in 2010 after conservative president Sebastian Piñera took office. The state newspaper’s union issued a statement calling the move, “the culmination of an attack on press freedom” waged by Piñera, while adding that “Once again, the common people, the citizens, were shut out of the distribution of power and resources, this time regarding an historic publication.”
While Piñera cited economic reasons for closing the print edition, it seems unlikely that this was the only reason as, according to La Mostrador, La Nación had some $2 million in profits in 2011.
With the closing of La Nación, Chile’s written media is now almost entirely concentrated in the hands of two groups, El Mercurio Group (publisher of El Mercurio) and Copesa (publisher of La Tercera). The two media outlets, which were outspoken proponents of the 1973 coup that brought the Pinochet dictatorship to power, have received $5 million in government subsidies a year, in an agreement that dates back to the Pinochet regime. As Chilean journalist Francisco Martorell told Reports Without Borders last year, “This system, which had resulted in the disappearance of the opposition press, killed it off again after the return to democracy, although it had just barely been revived. To cap it all, there are now fewer print media in Chile than there were at the end of the dictatorship!”
Well, now there is one fewer, but don’t expect to hear much about it from the self-styled defenders of free speech.