Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Chilean Journalist Oscar Caceres

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Audio / Visual Broadcasting
  • Date of Decision
    March 14, 2019
  • Outcome
    Admissible, Injunction or Order Granted
  • Case Number
  • Region
    Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Violence Against Speakers / Impunity
  • Tags
    Prior Restraints

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Chilean Supreme Court granted protection to journalist Oscar Caceres on the basis of a violation to his right to inform without prior censorship. The journalist was attacked by Jose Ancan, a security guard, when he tried to interview Bishop Eduardo Duran at the Evangelical Cathedral of Santiago. Caceres intended  to ask the Bishop his opinion on an investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for an alleged money laundering offense affecting some authorities of the Evangelical Church. The Supreme Court considered Article 19, paragraph 12 of the Chilean Constitution, as well as Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and other international provisions, and found that the journalist’s rights had been violated. 


Oscar Caceres, a Chilean radio journalist, approached Bishop Eduardo Durán after finishing a religious celebration in a Cathedral on September 16, 2018. His intention was to interview the religious authority and ask him about his opinion on an investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for an alleged money laundering offense affecting some authorities of the Evangelical Church. As soon as Caceres addressed the Bishop, Jose Ancan, a security guard, covered Caceres’ mouth and pressed him forcefully to the ground to prevent him from continuing with the interview.

The journalist requested a writ of protection (recurso de protección) against Bishop Eduardo Durán, the First Methodist Pentecostal Church and Jose Ancan. The plaintiff argued that these acts were arbitrary and illegal and therefore violated the right to inform without prior censorship guaranteed by Article 19, paragraph 12 of the Political Constitution of Chile. Consequently, he requested an order for the defendants to refrain from curtailing the work of the press by means of violent acts. In addition, he requested the dissolution of the Bishop’s security force, the recognition of institutional responsibility and a public apology.

Bishop Duran responded to the writ of protection that the Cathedral does not have any security guards. However, as soon as he saw a “brother of the church” using violence, he reprimanded him in public. For his part, Jose Ancan indicated that he does not belong to the Cathedral’s security team and that he reacted to Caceres’ “uncalled for, unjustified, reckless and unconsulted” treatment. Ancan said that he was reprimanded by the Bishop and later apologized to Caceres.

The Court of Appeals of Santiago rejected the action. The plaintiff appealed the decision and again requested protection of his right to inform without prior censorship. 

Decision Overview

The Supreme Court of Chile admitted the appeal for protection filed by the journalist. 

The Court pointed out that the guarantee that was allegedly violated is provided for in Article 19, paragraph 12 of the Chilean Constitution and in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which establish Freedom of Thought and Expression as a right.  In this regard, the Court highlighted article 13.1 ACHR, which states the right to freedom of thought and expression, including the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information”, as well as article 13.3, which states the prohibition to restrict the exercise of journalism. Along the same lines, it considered the provisions set forth in Principles 2 and 5 of the IACmHR’s Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Resolution 104 adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

The ruling concluded that, in accordance with the reasoning and standards set forth above, the events of September 16, 2018, “constitute a disturbance of the freedom to issue opinions and to inform without prior censorship” which prevented the journalist from obtaining the information he sought by lawful means. In addition, they point out the responsibility of the Bishop as religious authority of the Cathedral at the time the aggression occurred.

The Court decided to grant the protection in favor of Oscar Caceres against Bishop Eduardo Duran and Jose Ancan and ordered the defendants to refrain from impeding the work of journalists through violent acts.

Decision Direction

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Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

This decision expands expression by recognizing violence against journalists as a mechanism of prior censorship and protecting the plaintiff’s freedom of expression and journalistic practice.  

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

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