Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has been under fire this week after filing a legal complaint against the magazine Qué Pasa, which published transcripts of a conversation related to the events being investigated in an ongoing trial involving the Bachelet family.
Last month, Qué Pasa published transcripts of a conversation potentially related to the Caval case, in which her son Sebastián Dávalos is accused of using his influence to obtain US $10 million of credit for purchasing land in the suburbs of Santiago.
The transcripts document a conversation held between an unknown person and Juan Díaz — the manager for the real estate company Caval — throughout which Michelle Bachelet’s name is mentioned several times.
Bachelet filed the lawsuit as a citizen and not as the president on May 31.
Though she reportedly reiterated the importance of freedom of speech as a key component to a functioning democracy, news outlets and social media poured on the criticism on what has been largely considered a restriction of media freedom.
“This lawsuit has the intention of intimidating inasmuch as it seeks to imprison journalists, an action that harkens to punishments in non-democratic Chile,” President of The Inter-American Press Society Claudio Paolillo said.
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Qué Pasa stood its ground as well, releasing a statement on its website the same day that the lawsuit was filed, expressing both its disappointment in President Bachelet, as well as its outrage.
“We consider this lawsuit to be of the utmost seriousness and reject its attempt to curtail freedom of expression,” the magazine wrote. “The fact that the complaint is presented by the President as a citizen does not decrease the pressure, since her being President is inseparable from her identity.”
But Bachelet bit back on Wednesday, June 1 when she defended the decision.
“By presenting this lawsuit, I am making use of my right to defend myself,” she said. “to defend against lies and insults that affect what it most precious to any person: their honor.”
¿Usted cree que la Presidenta Bachelet debe retirar la querella contra los periodistas de la revista "Qué Pasa"?
— El Líbero (@elliberocl) June 3, 2016
The lawsuit is affecting far more than her honor, however, as the Chilean president’s already-poor approval ratings seem to be taking yet another hit in response. An unofficial poll set up by the publication El Líbero, for example, demonstrated how lopsided the support for Bachelet’s decision to sue really is.
Further steps in the legal process regarding this complaint have yet to announced.