Miami (August 10, 2022) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern and warning about a campaign of economic asphyxiation and political pressure denounced by Editorial Canelas S.A., the parent company of the newspaper Los Tiempos of Cochabamba.
In a meeting with the company's executives, the IAPA learned of disproportionate and periodic fiscal and administrative audits against the newspaper and of the hostility of a businessman close to the government and to the ruling party, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), who is pressuring the shareholders of Los Tiempos to take over the company at a derisory price.
Editorial Canela's executives assured IAPA that the government's suffocation campaign began years ago with blatant discrimination in granting official advertising. Recently, the government added pressure on private investors to discourage the purchase of real estate that Los Tiempos put up for sale to overcome the economic crisis. This situation puts the publishing house at risk of defaulting on its commitments to its staff and banks.
The IAPA has been recording that the modus operandi of the current government of Luis Arce differs from the direct censorship imposed in his time by former president Evo Morales. Instead, the attacks are now indirect and generalized against independent and critical media.
IAPA President Jorge Canahuati of the Opsa Group of Honduras said: "We are concerned about the indirect methods of pressure, especially in times of economic weakness such as the current one, deepened by the pandemic." He added: "Worse still, we are alarmed that the government seeks to keep the media or give them to its close associates to transform them into propaganda vehicles."
Carlos Jornet, the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and the editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, said: "We have seen similar processes of quasi-confiscation of media by the governments of other countries and, unfortunately, in all cases, we have seen that it is a perverse formula for annihilating democracy.
Canahuati and Jornet said that the IAPA will remain alert to the situation of Editorial Canelas and does not rule out raising the issue to multilateral organizations and sending a delegation to Bolivia.
The directors of Los Tiempos denounced that, in a surprising coincidence with the hostile takeover offers received by the company's shareholders, the National Tax System (SIN) and the Authority for Corporate Auditing conducted abusive audits against the publishing house. The SIN attributed multimillion-dollar debt and activities to other media of Editorial Canelas that are no longer in service.
They said the campaign's objective is to force the shareholders of Los Tiempos to surrender and hand over the company after almost 79 years of operation by the Canelas family.
Canahuati and Jornet considered that the fiscal and even judicial harassment, the financial pressures, and the discrimination of advertising against the media contravene principles of international documents on democracy and freedom of the press. Among them are the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Declaration of Chapultepec.
In the latest measurement of the IAPA's Chapultepec Index, Bolivia ranks 15th out of 22 in the list of countries with severe restrictions on journalistic work.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere, based in Miami, Florida, United States.