Santiago, Chile — Chilean military ruler Augusto Pinochet Ugarte has shut down the opposition press and imposed prior censorship - thus muting his critics and blocking Chileans from knowing the full extent of public unrest.
Yesterday morning, about 12 hours after the censorship was imposed, squads of police went from newsstand to newsstand in Santiago confiscating current issues of Analisis, one of six publications Pinochet closed indefinitely.
The censorship comes after weeks of rising violence and after Pinochet assumed sweeping power in a state of siege he imposed Nov. 6. Any news that could in any way be deemed as political must now be submitted for government review before publication or broadcast. Reporters here say the tough measures will make it difficult for Chileans to receive anything but news approved by the government.
''This is a government that is afraid of what the people are thinking and feeling,'' says Pablo Portales, president of the Metropolitan Council of the College of Journalists, a trade group.
Chile's press operated with more liberty in the past than it has under Pinochet, journalists say. After coming to power in a military coup in 1973, Pinochet tightly reined in the press.
Television stations and the major newspaper monoploy adhere closely to government thinking, and all new publications are subject to presidential approval. Editors have regularly been jailed on charges of subversion.
When massive protests began in Chile 18 months ago, Pinochet eased up on the media in what observers say was an effort to defuse unrest. But as the press became more aggressive, Pinochet again veered toward censorship.
Twice during protests in late March and April this year, the regime imposed censorship on opposition magazines. In June, it passed a law allowing prosecution of journalists, editors, and printers charged with violating citizen's ''private lives'' by printing stories about them.
And immediately before national protests in September and October, the regime prohibited opposition radio stations from broadcasting anything but music, advertising, and government-approved news, leaving Chileans unaware not only of the extent of discontent but of the force the regime used to repress it.
Several magazines shut down Nov. 7 are among the best-selling and most professionally produced in the nation. The magazine with the largest circulation in Chile, Cauce, was closed.