SANTIAGO – Chile is “sick” due to the lack of a pluralistic press, according to influential radio journalist Sergio Campos, who said he hoped that disease could be cured with more democracy and a new constitution.
In an interview with EFE, the 67-year-old Campos looked back at the persecution he suffered during the South American country’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship, the evolution of the Chilean media, the lack of pluralistic news coverage and the recent attempt in Congress to pass a “gag law.”
“Putting a gag on someone who wants to express an idea or make a denunciation is a blatant attack on freedom of expression and human rights. We journalists have to fight so that doesn’t happen,” said the award-winning journalism professor and radio presenter, who has just published a book on his 45-year career.
Campos recalls Sept. 11, 1973, the date socialist President Salvador Allende committed suicide during a military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, as a “brutal experience” that dashed Chile’s hopes for the future.
The then-aspiring journalist had been working at Radio Corporacion for four years when the putsch occurred and was an eyewitness to the bombing of the La Moneda Palace.
“The radio station was closed down. Many of my colleagues were arrested and taken to the National Stadium,” the winner of Chile’s National Journalism Prize in 2011, recalled.
Campos said he managed to avoid prison that day but was jailed and tortured shortly afterward at the Air War Academy, adding that he was later fired from the school where had been teaching because the new authorities did not trust him.
He went into exile in Argentina, where a military dictatorship took power in 1976 and carried out a dirty war that resulted in the murder of as many as 30,000 people and the torture of tens of thousands more.
Campos returned to Chile in 1978 and joined Radio Cooperativa, where he still hosts a long-running radio show.
His expression hardened when asked about life in Chile during the dictatorship, when he said “45 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty and people ate directly from the garbage.”
He said he and his colleagues at Radio Cooperativa were then committed to “recovering democracy” even though the task “was difficult and risky.”
Campos added that journalism in Chile had evolved considerably since those days, “but at the same time there’s a concentration that I think is very pernicious.”
He also called for greater transparency with respect to institutional advertising, a crucial aspect of private media’s viability.