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April 26 – An appeals court in northern Chile has forbidden a hospital official from making comments about his union representative after posting accusations to his Facebook page.
In an April ruling (143-2016), the Appeals Court of Iquique found that Jorge Soto Rodriguez, an official at the Dr. Ernesto Torres public hospital, infringed the honor of colleague of Domingo Maraboli. The court found Soto breached Maraboli's rights under Article 19, IV of the Chilean Constitution, through accusations posted in a conversation on his personal Facebook page.
The broad injunction suggests that constitutional defamation claims can result in a broadly tailored injunction, despite competing constitutional rights.
In the posting, Soto accused Maraboli, who is president of the local branch of the health professionals union, of taking unjustified leave from his job at the hospital, requiring colleagues to cover for his absences in exchange for favors, and of sexually harassing female colleagues. Soto also said that Maraboli was despised by colleagues.
Soto made the accusations on Facebook after the union refused to defend him when his employer tried to fire him for professional misconduct.
The court said the case brought into conflict two constitutional rights: the right to honor and freedom of speech. But if the accusations were true, Soto ought to present his accusations to the courts rather than airing them on social media, the court said.
The court ordered Soto to withdraw the post from Facebook and to “abstain from publishing, in any media, his opinions about the complainant, his personal or professional life, his work as a union official or any other aspect related to him.”
Carlos Reusser, an attorney at Valencia & Reusser in Santiago, told Bloomberg BNA April 25 that Soto had good grounds to appeal the ruling to Chile's Supreme Court as it was far in excess of the charges against him.
“They have told him he can never publish anything again about [Maraboli] until the ends of time,” Reusser said. “It is very unusual.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Azzopardi in Santiago at firstname.lastname@example.org
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