Celebrating 110th anniversary of Santiago’s Círculo de Periodistas

The winner of the Camilo Henríquez Journalism Prize, Antonio Freire, received a standing ovation on the announcement of his achievement.

Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times

SANTIAGO – Chile’s oldest circle of journalists celebrated its 110th anniversary this week with a schedule of events, ranging from a debate in the ex-senate building to an exhibition of photographs, and culminating in a prize ceremony in the Camilo Henríquez theatre attended by the Minister Secretary General of Chile, Paula Narváez, and the Mayor of Santiago, Felipe Alessandri.

The Círculo de Periodistasde Santiago was founded on August 25th, 1907, by a small circle of journalists who wanted a society in which they could share ideas and form links – both of business and friendship. They were all supporters of the emerging profession that was journalism, and wanted to use the circle to support and encourage future journalists, in their work.

According to a census from that era, there were 370 journalists at that time, of which only 142 worked in Santiago. None of the journalists recorded were women.

A small exhibition in the library of the seat of the circle, a building on Hermanos Amunátegui, tells the story of the conception of the circle, through the century since, and looks forward to future plans. It highlights events such as the founding of the building, a permanent seat for journalists to meet and research, and the opening of the School of Journalism, an institution which is still teaching today.

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The exhibition also tells of the Circle’s International Congress of Journalists, a 4-day event in 1952 which bought together journalists from across the world to debate the Past, Present and Future of the profession.

This debate was continued on Wednesday in a discussion in the ex-Senate Building, in which well-known journalists Lucia Castellón, Javiera Olivares and Patricio Fernández talked about their own experiences through the trajectory of the profession. They also discussed the evolution of technology, and how it has changed the face of their jobs so far, with possibilities for much greater change in the future.

On Friday, the official anniversary of the Circle, journalists past and present met in the Teatro Camilo Henríquez to celebrate both the anniversary and the annual prize-giving ceremony for the Chronicle Competition and the Camilo Henríquez Journalism Prize.

On opening the ceremony, the President of the Circle, Douglas Hübner, read a letter he had received from the Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, to congratulate the Circle on their anniversary. In it, the Chilean head of State highlighted the need for fair and honest journalism, naming it as “a permanent source of consciousness”, and gave thanks to the Circle for their continued work throughout the decades to ensure an independent and pluralist press.

Douglas Hübner went on to declare how happy and proud he, and the rest of the Circle, were of the work they have done, and of the development of the Circle since its conception. Quoting Gabriel García Márquez, he called journalism “the most beautiful profession in the world” and promised that the Circle would continue to fight for freedom of expression, for democracy and for truly ethical reporting.

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Before the prizes were announced, the Mayor of Santiago and the President of the Circle signed an agreement to grant discounted tickets for the theatre to citizens of the city. This acted a symbol of the mutual desire for the city to work closer with the Circle, especially in its mission to bring the culture of Chile closer to the people of the municipality.

The Mayor admitted that, in the past, “perhaps Santiago hasn’t fully acknowledged the importance of the Circle.” However, he wished that this act would be the first of many in a closer relationship between the two societies, as “journalists have given this country so much and will, without a doubt, give so much more.”

The winner of the Camilo Henríquez Journalism Prize, Antonio Freire, received a standing ovation on the announcement of his achievement. In his winner’s speech, he paid tribute to all of the journalists who had come before him, and gave thanks and recognition to all of the reporters who stay in the shadows and receive little recognition for their hard work.