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Chile: Discrimination, Media Ethics, and the Case of #InesPerez

Inés Pérez

Inés Pérez interviewed on Chilevision television

“Can you imagine here, in this gated community, domestic workers [nanas] walking outside? All the workers walking on the street, and your children there, on their bikes?”

With this phrase, aired in an interview on national television in Chile on Sunday, January 15, neighborhood resident Inés Pérez became the subject of online scorn. Pérez was commenting on the policy of a gated community, El Algarrobal II, in Chicureo that prohibits the entry of maids and other workers by foot.

The tension around discrimination against domestic workers in the area had been mounting since December 2011 when an instruction letter [es] distributed to the members of the Breezes of Chicureo Golf Club [es] went viral. The letter said maids must wear their uniforms in the club and never use the swimming pool. With this controversy fresh in their minds, social media users immediately reacted to the statement by Pérez.

Sentidos Comunies published a Storify post [es] collecting Twitter reactions. On Facebook, on the page “Ines Perez Concha” [es] people left numerous comments condemning her words and even insulting her. Some Chileans also took to blogging to express their outrage.

Marcela Arellano [es] defended domestic workers and spoke against discrimination in a post that was published in several online citizen newspapers of the Mi Voz network.

Yo no sabía que en este pequeño país existían imperios (a menos que sean descendientes de reyes Incas) en donde los infantes herederos deben ser protegidos de presenciar a las seis de la tarde una horda de gente de clase trabajadora, osando pisar las mismas veredas donde juegan inocentes los principitos que no conocen un mundo distinto.

I did not know that in this small country we had empires (unless they descend from Inca kings) where the infant heirs must be protected from witnessing at six o'clock in the evening a horde of working class people, daring to tread the paths of playing, innocent princes and princesses, who do not know a different world.

Meanwhile, in El Quinto Poder [es], Ximena Jara wrote about the word “nana” as a discriminatory term, and added:

Nos llenamos la boca de furia sagrada […] nos hemos dedicado a buscar, una por una, las normativas discriminatorias que atentan contra la dignidad del quehacer de estas trabajadoras. Esto está muy bien, pero no pasa de ser un berrinche. No, mientras no comprendamos que el compromiso parte, literalmente, por casa. Que si somos medios responsables, ciudadanos responsables, vamos a asumir que los abusos a las trabajadoras de casa particular son mucho más extensos que estos casos extremos que hoy nos sulfuran.

We fill our mouths with sacred rage […] we've dedicated our time to searching, for each and every discriminatory law that attacks the dignity of the work of these workers. This is great, but it is no more than a tantrum. Not until we understand that the commitment begins, literally, at home. That means that if we are responsible media, responsible citizens, we will assume that abuses of domestic workers are much more extensive than these extreme cases that rile us up today.

On January 17, however, rumors of a transcript [es] of the full interview began to spread on social networks. Chilevisión finally published the whole interview [es], which shows that Inés Pérez's statement had been taken out of context.

In the full interview, among other things, she says her maid freely goes outside with her daughter, with or without her uniform. Pérez explains that she asks her maid to arrive and leave the neighborhood in a minibus, and that she lives half an hour from the neighborhood entrance. She asks: “Can you imagine during the winter with rain and thunder, all the maids walking in the neighborhood?”

On the same Facebook page [es] where she had been heavily criticized, some [es] users are now apologizing, although several [es] still believe that no matter the context, her declarations are still insulting, especially the phrase about maids and workers walking on the street while children are “on their bikes”.

Journalism Ethics and Social Media

The discussion about discrimination quickly turned into a debate on journalism ethics and social media.

Journalist Gianitsa Corral touched on the subject of ethics in a post for Sentidos Comunes [es]. She lists some of her thoughts on the full interview and the way Chilevisión handled the editing. Later, she discusses the responsibility of media consumers, concluding that:

Los medios se equivocan, manipulan, juegan, transforman, indagan, verifican y nos estructuran la información que todos tenemos derecho a saber. Pero somos nosotros los que decidimos qué hacer con ella. No podemos justificar nuestra pereza con un 100% de credulidad a todo lo que vemos y oímos. También somos responsables de capturar esa realidad.

The media make mistakes, manipulate, play, transform, investigate, verify and structure the information we all have a right to know. But we are the ones who decide what to do with it. We can not justify our laziness with 100% of credulity in everything we see and hear. We are also responsible of capturing that reality.

Mauricio Tolosa, in Sitiocero [es], blogs about online behavior in reactions to the video, and says the whole incident shows that Chile suffers from a “coexistence disease”:

El problema de fondo, la enfermedad de convivencia de Chile, que genera segregación y linchamientos, no se resuelva con explosiones en las redes sociales. El problema de fondo requiere aprender a conversar, a preguntar, a escuchar, a respetar hasta reconstruir la comunidad dañada. Son conductas que no surgen espontáneamente en este sistema comunicativo, es un esfuerzo de consciencia, una atención y un aprendizaje cotidianos.

The underlying problem, the coexistence disease in Chile, which generates segregation and [virtual] lynchings, is not resolved with explosions on social networks. The underlying problem requires us to learn to talk, to ask, to listen, to respect until we can rebuild the damaged community. These are behaviors that do not arise spontaneously in this communication system, they are an effort of consciousness, attention and daily learning.

Clases de Periodismo [es], a blog that focuses on journalism and media, declared their stance on Chilevisón’s editing:

Desde este espacio, rechazamos la falta de criterio de Chilevisión para editar las declaraciones de sus entrevistados. Además, nos sumamos al pedido de una rectificación (que no basta con la publicación del video para que los usuarios saquen sus propias conclusiones).

From this site, we reject the lack of judgement shown by Chilevisión in editing the statements of their interviewees. In addition, we join the call for a correction (not only the release of the video for viewers to draw their own conclusions).

The public statement [es] on the Chilevisión website counters:

el segmento seleccionado es una idea completa expresada por la entrevistada, unidad de contenido  que no ha sido manipulada en modo alguno y que no altera el sentido final de sus declaraciones.

the selected segment is a complete idea expressed by the interviewee, a unit of content that has not been tampered with in any way and does not alter the final meaning of her statements.

According to the latest reports on the incident, Chilevisión fired [es] Fernando Leal Quinteros, the production assistant that filtered the text of the full interview.

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