Miami (November 11, 2013)—Threats of reprisal against the Bolivian newspaper El Deber and one of its reporters was condemned today by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which called the action an attack on press freedom.
The paper’s editor, Pedro Rivero, told the IAPA about a campaign of threats waged by the Santa Cruz de la Sierra municipal mayor’s office against his newspaper and its journalists. The IAPA said it would be paying special attention to how the threat develops because it involved instances of warning reprisals by the city government against the paper for its editorial stance.
Rivero, also vice chairman for Bolivia of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, explained that the reaction of the mayor’s office started after reporter Pablo Ortiz’s piece published on November 3 in the El Deber supplement Séptimo Día (Seventh Day) regarding the construction of municipal offices in parts of the city set aside for green zones which according to experts, would have serious consequences for the environment and the quality of life of inhabitants there.
In a letter addressed to Rivero dated November 6 the local government demanded rectification of what it called “a capricious, biased, tendentious, ill-intended and bad faith statement.” It called for the rectification to occupy the same space and length so as to deny what it regarded as “lying, ill-intentioned and libelous information.” It also warned that it would take out a libel suit against Ortiz and the newspaper.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, said that “to use labels and threats in order to require the rectification of a report regarded as adverse to public action, implies ordering silencing against the press that carries out a watchdog role over administrative activity; a violation of press freedom that encourages self-censorship.”
Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, recalled that the report on Bolivia presented during the IAPA’s General Assembly in Denver, Colorado, last month included a denunciation by El Deber of reprisals by the government against critical media through the reduction of placement of official advertising.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.