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Chilean journalists angry at ban on reporting on drug case

June 17, 1997

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ The head of an association of Chilean journalists urged his colleagues Tuesday to disobey a judge’s ban on reports about a major drug-trafficking case that has captured the public’s fascination.

The order by Judge Betriz Pedrals revolves around the trial of Mario Silva Leiva, considered one of the country’s top traffickers. The judge contends that the three-month ban, which became effective Tuesday, was necessary because confidential information was being leaked to the press.

But Senen Conejeros, president of the Colegio de Periodistas, the country’s largest journalists’ association, openly prodded other reporters to defy the judge’s order.

The Media Federation, an umbrella organization of newspapers and radio and television stations, called the order ``an attack on freedom of the press.″

Silva’s trial suddenly grabbed public attention following reports that he was paying for protection from an extensive network that included some court officials and police officers.

The law invoked by Pedrals authorizes judges to ban reporting on certain cases if they believe that media coverage is compromising the proceedings. A bill to repeal the law has been stuck in congress for three years.

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