September has been another time of concern for the work of independent news media. The government, supported by a majority in Congress, enacted law number 13 which requires privately-owned media to publish free of charge advertising in favor of the governmental institution, with which it worsens the financial asphyxia begun in 2010.
The law obliges media to grant more than 30% of their advertising spaces to governmental campaigns and at the same time they are deprived of official advertising.
For several years now the harassment is also expressed through a policy of fear aimed at advertisers. People and companies that place ads in the media are threatened with reprisals through fines and taxing.
The Law on Political Organizations No. 1096 in its clause 74, in force since September 1, determines that each media outlet must compulsorily and freely grant a space to the Multi-nationality Electoral Body "the same amount of space and time that it contracts for the implementation of the strengthening of the public."
"The Electoral Body will allocate the time and space contracted and provided by the news media to the corresponding political organizations and alliances in accordance with the criteria established under the present law," states the new ruling which acquires a confiscatory nature for the media.
Another 12 laws and decrees are in effect since 2010 that oblige media to publish official information free of charge, as does the Presidential Order of last January regarding campaigns on violence against minors. The media, newspapers, radio stations, television channels and websites must disseminate them in privileged spaces at a high cost for news companies.
Added to these latter rules is a tax pursuit of newspapers that question public policies or acts of corruption. Other retirement contribution collection agencies impose high-level financial fines.
A new prior censorship recourse is about to appear. In August President Evo Morales announced a law against lying and indicated the object of the law is the news media.
Bolivia's National Press Association (ANP) came out in defense of constitutional guarantees and called for the full enforcement of the rules that protect every citizen's ability to express ideas and opinions.
The Congress members of the governing party, the Socialism Movement (MAS), applauded the announcement and warned that the law extends to citizens who use social media.
Journalists, human rights activists and Internet users fear that the new law will affect the fundamental right to express ideas and impose legal proceedings in courts and punishments contrary to the Constitution and international conventions.
On October 9 La Paz Provincial Governor Félix Patzi suspended the broadcasts of radio program "Cabildeo", hosted by journalist Amalia Pando, after she had interviewed former president Carlos Mesa, an opposition candidate to the Presidency in 2019. The program was aired by sate radio station Radio Lider, owned by the government.