Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

The holding of general elections on October 20 is marked by a prior censorship applied by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to the dissemination of surveys that do not comply with a law enacted in 2010, and according to political observers and organizations defending citzens' freedoms it is contrary to international conventions and the very Political Constitution of the State (CPE).

The 100-year-old morning newspaper El Diario complained of being victim of a tax siege which for 20 years prevented it from complying with its obligations, alerting to its high financial fragility.

In 2001 the news company began a complex corporate tax payment process, a modality accepted under the law, but the process was interrupted before the start of the third session of completion of the assets delivered as payment.

In 2002 the process was interrupted without major explanations by the tax administration and currently, 17 years later, the authority declares in written communications that it does not have any record of said process. Contradictorily it argues that El Diario owes $96 million.

El Diario complained that the lack of knowledge of two payments, one in-kind and the other in cash, this latter one done between 1988 and 2004, is a governmental strategy to silence its independent voice.

In a decision on September 11 communicated to the state Universidad Mayor de San Andrés university (UMSA) the Supreme Electoral Tribunal prohibited the dissemination of a survey held by that university, along with independent news media, because it was not informed about the financing of the study.

The results of the survey would indicate that there will be no clear winner between President Evo Morales and candidate Carlos Mesa, for which reason there will be a second round. Other surveys give a wide advantage to Morales for his fourth re-election.

In the face of possible sanctions the media avoided disseminating the survey, with the exception of Agencia de Noticias Fides (Fides News Agency) and social media. The National Association of Bolivian Press requested to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal that the surveys and opinion polls be freely disseminated, without the requirement of prior authorization. This association said that only 36 national media and 44 in the state were enabled to disseminate opinion polls.

Several press organizations, among them the National Association of Bolivian Press, suffered attacks through informational versions manipulated on websites without authority, in a clear action to discredit media.

The registered brands of the newspapers Los Tiempos, El Deber and Página Siete were used to create websites on social media with the aim of disseminating graphic messages and versions of matters that affect the image of public persons.

There is maintained the government policy to block the assignment of official advertising to independent media, while there are privileged media with a news agenda favorable to the government.

In May journalist Juan Pablo Guzmán complained that the Communication Ministry is elaborating an agenda of interviews of a part of the privately-owned television channels excluding themes and questions that give rise to discomfort for interviewed officials.

The journalists of the Santa Cruz newspaper El Deber, Guider Arancibia, complained that he suffered verbal threats from Internal Security Minister Carlos Romero Bonifaz for publications related to the detention and links of alleged drug trafficker Pedro Montenegro.