Melinka is a small island belonging to the Guaitecas archipelago, located in the southern region of Chile. With approximately 1,800 residents, Melinka has poor infrastructure and scarce communication with the rest of the country. This isolation means that local forms of communication fulfill an important social and community function. On the Island of Melinka, the Municipality provides electric energy through electro generators owned by Miguel Millar Silva (director of the radio station Estrella del Mar). On the island two systems of energy provision exist: one on a broad schedule that allows the residents to use free power from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, and another on a restricted schedule that is subject to payment for consumption and runs from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. Because of the mayor’s animosity towards the stations editorial tone, Radio Estrella del Mar was excluded from the open power schedule. This constituted a violation of the freedom of expression and equality before the law (articles 13 and 24 of the American Convention).
When the complaint was filed before Inter-American System, the Estrella de Mar de Melinka radio station was the sole, independent source of media on the island and provided important information services to the community. It also guaranteed communication between neighboring organizations and trade unions in the region. In light of this, the Municipality’s decision to suspend power service to the radio station was a violation of freedom of expression of those who used this means of communication.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its background report about the case in March 2014 and in May 2015 the State of Chile and CEJIL—representing station staff and listeners of the Radio Estrella de Mar— signed a Compliance Agreement. As a result, Chile was obligated to implement a series of reparative measures to promote free and inclusive broadcasting in light of is commitments.
The case makes clear the discriminatory treatment applied to Radio Estrella de Mar in regards to the arbitrary reductions of electric energy supplies which resulted in a violation of the freedom of expression and equality before the law of communicators and listeners of the station.
Impact of the case:
This case represents the first time the IACHR establishes standars with regards to community radios.