IAPA Midyear Meeting 2017

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

March 31 – April 3


In this period latent was the climate of hostility towards news media and journalists to which are attributed a decisive role in the negative results of the consultation that dealt the Bolivian head of state his biggest reverse at the ballot box. The people expressed themselves with a strong no to the aspirations of Evo Morales during the February 21, 2016 referendum in which he sought to legitimize a new re-election through constitutional amendment.

A report by the Bolivian Human Rights Observatory of the New Democracy Foundation points out that the attacks on media, columnists and journalists have increased alarmingly in the last three months. In 2014 there were reported 45 cases, 22 in 2015 and 59 in 2016.

The National Press Association of Bolivia (ANP) has expressed its concern at the violence against journalists and news media in the midst of social conflicts occurring in the country. The organization fears that the high number of physical and verbal attacks in 2016, with 59 cases recorded by the Press Freedom Monitoring and Vigilance Unit, continue to be a disquieting trend following some incidents noted in the city of La Paz and in nearby towns.

The ANP rejected a statement by former Presidency Minister Juan Ramón Quintana, who asked his successor, René Martínez, on January 25 for "a serious, severe, rigorous investigation into the news media's ethics."

The chairman of the independent media association, Marcelo Miralles Iporre, stated that vigilance of compliance with journalistic ethics corresponds to the tribunals specializing in self-regulation and their corresponding rules, in line with what is established by Article 107 of the State Political Constitution (CPE).

Among the cases of violence there is the attack upon journalist Ana Apaza and news photographers Javier Mamami and Álvaro Valero while they were covering clashes between residents of the rural town of Achacachi, located north of La Paz, on Wednesday, February 15.

The photographer of the newspaper Página Siete, Álvaro Valero, was beaten with a tree branch and when "reporter Ana Apaza attempted to defend him she also was attacked and thrown to the floor by the mob," the Página Siete Web page reported.

During this conflict unidentified persons attacked the radio station of the governmental National System of Radios of Native Peoples (RPO) in the town of Achacachi. On February 15 the radio station was silenced according to a formal complaint by the person heading it, Edwin Huanca, who had to move to the city of La Paz to get medical attention for open wounds to the head, the left eye and several parts of the body.

The radio station belonging to the Communication Ministry's broadcast group operated in the building of the Omasuyos province Peasants Unique Union Federation (FSUC), supporter of President Morales, and its affiliates are known for their indigenous wear consisting of red ponchos.

On Tuesday, February 21 the reporter of Alternativa radio station in the semi-tropical area of Yungas, Ángel Blanco, was detained at police offices for several hours, as confirmed by the Monitoring Unit of the National Association of the Press of Bolivia (ANP).

Blanco covered the news on clashes between coca leaf growers and the policewhile the Multinational Legislative Assembly was debating a proposed new law on the plant.

There does not cease to be of concern the transfer of the pieces of land where the radio station of the La Paz state government, Radio Líder, operates, in competition to the central government, which would imply the suspension of the programs headed by journalists Amalia Pando and Gonzalo Rivera, both openly critical of President Morales' policies.

On March 28 ten Bolivian journalists invited by the Latam airline for an inaugural flight from Santa Cruz de Sierra (Bolivia) to Santiago were subjected to clumsy and humiliating treatment by immigration officials of the Chilean capital under the curious argument that there existed a new "state" in the relationship between the two countries.

Cochabamba journalist Marianela Montenegro denounced that she continues to be hounded by several legal cases that intentionally would seek to block her freedom to express herself about various cases of corruption.