Bolivia: Attacks on media outlets, journalists and social leader threaten freedom of association and expression
The journalist Guider Arancibia Guillén of “El Deber” and director of the Journalists Association of Santa Cruz reported receiving threats following his coverage of a drug trafficking case. On 27th July, the Bolivian Journalists National Association, along with nine Bolivian journalists’ organisations, condemned this situation and urged authorities to provide effective guarantees and special protection for him.
Additionally, the media organisations emphasized the Inter-American standards that clearly obligated the State to provide exceptional protection to journalists whose lives and physical well-being are under threat. Journalist and lawyer Raquel Guerrero raised concerns over the handling of five reported cases of police abuse against members of the press during the protests in Santa Cruz.
She noted that these cases were either dismissed or had made no significant progress. In some instances, authorities closed investigations, allowing perpetrators to go unpunished, citing the inability to identify the responsible officers behind these acts. Guerrero highlighted that these cases faced significant challenges, including the demand for evidence and the identification of masked police officers, compounding the problem with a perceived "lack of interest" and an alleged "cover-up" within the police ranks.
Los diarios bolivianos representados por @ANPBOLIVIA denuncian amenazas contra periodista https://t.co/IW3eMjWzZW @PVacaV @RELE_CIDH @VDSorg @IFEXALC @Internews_AMER @CPJAmericas @RSF_esp @sipiapa_oficial @FLIP_org @IPYS @FUNDAMEDIOS— ANP Bolivia (@ANPBOLIVIA) July 27, 2023
Nearly a year after the detention of César Apaza, the leader of the self-defence committee of the Regional Coca Producers Association (Asociación Departamental de Productores de Coca, Adepcoca), five organisations are calling on the Bolivian government to uphold his rights.
On 22nd September 2022, in the context of an intensified coca eradication campaign, the police arbitrarily detained César Apaza, who suffered severe injuries as a result of being beaten. Then, he was accused of involvement in the burning of a coca market in Villa El Carmen. In 2023, the government acknowledged that the market was operating illegally.
While at Chonchocoro prison, he experienced a stroke, likely resulting from the earlier assault, leading to a two-week hospitalisation. Despite his paralysed state, he was subsequently returned to prison to await trial.
According to the Ombudsman’s Office, the medical examination confirmed that Apaza's injuries were a direct result of torture and the degrading treatment inflicted by the police. However, rather than recommending his release from preventive detention and granting house arrest, they only advised that he should receive professional medical care.
César Apaza is still held in preventive detention at the San Pedro Penitentiary in La Paz. The Ombudsman's Office expressed the view that this case illustrates the excessive use of preventive detention and has reaffirmed its request to review that precautionary measure.
On 29th August, a public demonstration took place in protest at the telecommunications authority’s decision to shutter and confiscate the equipment of Los Yungas radio station.
Félix Pinto, the director of the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing telecommunications and transportation (Autoridad de Regulación y Fiscalización de Telecomunicaciones y Transportes - ATT), stigmatised the demonstrators by claiming that they were being manipulated by the media. This year, three radio stations have already been closed.
The National Journalists Association expressed grave concern regarding this situation, as it represents a clear infringement on freedom of expression. Furthermore, the affected radio stations, including Radio Yungas de Chulumani, Radio FM Bolivia and Radio Alternativa, have a common thread of openly criticising government policies and practices. Pinto declared that the radio stations will obtain their respective licences if they fulfil their legal obligations.
🔵 #ANF | #Sociedad En enero, Radio Yungas de Chulumani (Sud Yungas), cesó su labor informativa tras 40 años de actividades y su licencia no fue renovada por la estatal ATT.— Agencia de Noticias Fides (@noticiasfides) August 29, 2023
Lea la nota aquí 👉 https://t.co/e8Hfw6357L pic.twitter.com/UKFKRz4yZ5