Report to the 72nd General Assembly

Mexico City, Mexico

October 13-17, 2016


Violence against reporters and cameramen during coverage of the highway blockages on the La Paz to Oruro road, staged by miners from August 20 to 25, 2016, ended with the murder of a senior internal security official and the death of five workers. This gave rise to an atmosphere of fear over the interest of the Public Prosecutor's Office to obtain information, images and videos of journalistic use in the police investigation.

Miners belonging to cooperatives dedicated to exploiting state deposits halted road traffic on the Bolivia trunk road in protest at a new law on the sector and they clashed with anti-riot police.

During the protests the news teams of television channels, newspapers and radio stations suffered harassment by the protestors, threats and physical attacks that left three cameramen and photographers injured.

On August 23 the cameraman with the privately-owned Cadena A channel of the city of Oruro, Roger Salazar, was injured during a beating up by the miners. This happened in Panduro, 31 miles from La Paz.

The Public Prosecutor's Office opened proceedings against those allegedly responsible for the attack.

On August 25 the photographer of the newspaper La Razón, José Lavayén, and the cameraman of privately-owned channel Red Uno, Marcos Ayllón, were injured during the clashes between miners and Panduro police.

That same day the Red Uno news team, made up of reporter Erick Salazar, cameraman Marcos Ayllón and driver Félix Oscar Lira, was intercepted by the miners.

Ayllón suffered fracture of the nose wall. Salazar gave a dramatic account of the recue of Ayllón, who was seized by the miners and repeatedly beaten.

Bolivia's National Press Association (ANP) condemned the miners' excesses and called for compensation for the material damages and payment for medical attention.

Following the murder of Internal Security Deputy Minister Rodolfo Ilanes on August 25 a member of the Public Prosecutors Commission called on the director of Fencomin radio station, Moisés Flores, to give a statement because he was the first journalist to see the body of the dead man and report the news.

The ANP's legal team accompanied Flores to the Public Prosecutor's Office with the aim of explaining that he had carried out his work as a reporter and could not become a witness.

During the representation a prosecutor and police officers entered the building where the Fencomin radio station operates. They detained journalist Roger Condori for five hours and he was then released without charge.

The action led to the building being sealed off, the silencing of the radio, and seizure of its main computer and a portable recorder used in news coverage. The radio's director said that its work on news during the days of the conflict was carried out within the framework of plurality and respect for news sources.

The ANP denounced the violation of Article 296 of the Penal Code which punishes "with imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of 30 to 200 days pay anything that illegally impedes or obstructs the issuance of thought by any media of dissemination, and the free circulation of a book, newspaper or any other printed matter."

The Public Prosecutor's Office announced that it will ask reporters covering the violent acts for photographs and video recordings, something that goes against fundamental norms in the practice of journalism, as are press secrecy, balance in coverage and neutrality.

Interior Minister Carlos Romero said that "secrecy of sources goes to the second level when a murder has to be solved," contrary to a guarantee on this established under the Print Law.

There continues a hostile atmosphere against news media and journalists in the country. After the adverse results of the February 21 referendum for the aspiration of President Evo Morales to be re-elected the government launched a campaign to discredit the work of the press.

The government threats are accompanied by such descriptions as "cartel of lies," "news mafia" and "weapons of war" and in this way it seeks to show the independent media as a political apparatus of destabilization.

In the case of the independent print media the coverage of acts of corruption, and the Zapata case in particular, led to the suspension of official advertising, a usual policy that for several years has been denounced and rejected by the ANP.

The ANP denounced "the dangerous situation of vulnerability" in which the work of the press is found and sent a letter to the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Denis Racicot. From the ungainly governmental disqualifications neither did go free after his visit to the country in August the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza, who after meeting with several news organizations, human rights groups and NGOs urged there be the restoration of a climate of tolerance and respect in the government-news media relationship, in areas of freedom of expression and the right to information.

Shortly afterwards President Morales included Rapporteur Lanza in the "cartel of lies" and declared that the media had become a "powerful weapon of war directed to misinformation, imperial ideologization and the demobilization of society."

Journalist Marianela Montenegro is facing a legal action for libel following a lawsuit being presented by former Cochabamba anti-drug public prosecutor Claudia Mancilla. Montenegro, owner of Canal 33 television of Cochabamba, hosts the discussion program "Aló Marianela" in which she has been covering the disappearance of $119,800 seized in 2011 from a person suspected of drug trafficking. The money, which was in the custody of and in the safe of Mancilla, disappeared.

Montenegro has complained that for several years she has been suffering "harassment, persecution, death threats and made-up lawsuits." The IAPA has asked the Cochabamba judiciary for transparency, due process and access to justice in the criminal case.

In October, associations of journalists from six departments of the country declared an emergency before the announcement of the filming of a documentary commissioned by the Ministry of the Presidency using public resources and in order to continue promoting the campaign to discredit and intimidation against media independent media, which the ministry of state accused of being part of "cartel of lies".

Moreover, journalists Humberto Vacaflor and Amalia Pando were forced to recant and to provide satisfaction to President Morales and a minister, respectively. In the first case, Vacaflor accused of defamation, libel and slander recant said that in compliance with a court order and after the rejection of his request to invoke the Press Law.

In the case of Pando, the National Ethics Court issued a ruling that directed the journalist to correct information that had insinuated that the Minister of Health, Ariana Campero, was pregnant.

The IAPA expressed concern and condemned the old practice of intimidating journalists and disqualifying the media, with the aim of deterring to report on matters of public interest, which turns them into stone in the shoe of authoritarian and undemocratic regimes.