Report to the IAPA Midyear Meeting
March 29 to 31
Cartagena, Colombia
Bolivian news companies entered a concerning cycle of financial fragility as the result of eight continuous years of governmental pressures, of tax persecution of newspapers and their advertisers, of permanent stigmatization of the work of journalists and media, and of the imposition of no-charge dissemination services.

Since 2010 the government has enacted 13 laws that correspond to a political and ideological scheme aimed at weakening the independent word of journalists and media. In 2019 President Evo Morales and his Vice President, Álvaro García, are seeking a fourth re-election, in contravention of the Political Constitution of the State (CPE) and a referendum that rejected amendment of the Magna Charta in February 2016.

Each one of the 13 laws imposes on radio stations, television broadcasters, online media, but in particular privately-owned and independent newspapers, the publication of free advertisements in specific pages, which gives rise to losses of up to 30% for advertising.

The newspapers have to reject advertising requested by the public and in its place must fill privileged spaces with governmental campaign ads.

The financial penalty acquires double impact: on one part it takes away financial resources from privately-owned media and on the other it excludes any independent news company from state advertising which is distributed among media with some affinity with the government policies.
The Bolivian National Press Association (ANP) complained that the imposition of free ads contravenes
Article 46 of the State Political Constitution (CPE) promulgated by the very President Evo Morales in 2009, and which "... prohibits all forms of forced work or other analogous means of exploitation that obliges a person to carry out work without his or her consent and just retribution."

The legislators of the government bench, with a large majority in the Legislative Assembly, repeated the financial aggression in 2018. On September 1 last year there was enacted the Law on Political Organizations No. 1096 which under the argument of promoting "informed vote" and "equality of proportionality" among the political parties stipulated the "free and obligatory" assignment of spaces in news media. The amount of space granted free of charge will be the same as that contracted by the electoral body, Law 1096 notes.

The systematic application of laws against the news media gave rise to a high loss of income and obliged television channels and privately-owned newspapers to reduce staff in newsrooms and operation areas as a step aimed at preserving the journalistic work.

The balance of the financial asphyxia is directly affecting the people's right to be informed duly and by independent media of the governmental voice which, through an extensive network of radio media, a news agency and a television channel with satellite coverage, disseminates propaganda favorable to the governors of the day.

Added to the mentioned laws the governments and press workers union organizations supporting President Evo Morales insist on applying a life insurance that duplicates current obligations and represents an increased plundering of financial resources to build a tax-free private fund.
The ANP warns that this insurance duplicates an already existing obligation and that if its implementation is enforced it would only demand a minimum contribution for coverage of insurance by journalists and staff directly involved in news coverage, in place of the current law which calls for a new punishment-tax of 1% of real and effective income.

The ANP warned that the life insurance, imposed without technical studies, will cause the shutdown of small and medium-sized media and require many companies to manage without journalists.