Chile must investigate military spying on investigative journalist

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat

Civilian authorities in Chile must urgently investigate the reported spying on investigative journalist Mauricio Weibel Barahona by the country’s military, Transparency International said today. According to reports, Weibel was followed and his phone was tapped in 2016 while he was investigating corruption in the armed forces.

At the time of the alleged spying, Weibel was working for investigative news platform The Clinic. In June, computers and other hardware were stolen from the offices of The Clinic and Chile Transparente, Transparency International’s official national chapter, which are located in the same building. Chile Transparente assured the public that any sensitive information related to reports and investigations of corruption were securely stored.

“Spying on journalists is an egregious abuse of power that cannot be tolerated in a democratic society,” said Alberto Precht, Executive Director of Chile Transparente. “It is vital that a full and thorough investigation is conducted not only into the reports of spying, but into all the recent suspicious incidents surrounding Weibel and The Clinic.”

Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International, said: “Investigative journalists uncovering corruption have every right to keep information about their sources private. Intrusions by the state into their professional and private lives is completely opposed to international anti-corruption conventions and principles of an open society.”

“Civilian oversight and institutional checks and balances on military authority are essential for ensuring that the resources at the armed forces’ disposal are not abused for corrupt and self-serving purposes, especially when they happen at the expense of human rights and civil liberties,” said Steve Francis, Director of Transparency International Defence & Security, a global initiative based in London. “The military should be acting in the interest of the national security of the country they serve, not covertly monitoring journalists working to expose corruption.”

Transparency International and Chile Transparente also call for the Chilean judiciary to investigate the reported authorisation of the phone tapping on Weibel by the Court of Appeals.

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