Demonstrators arrested during Dakar Rally protests
In January, a protest was held during the early stages of the Dakar Rally, an annual motorsports competition which has been held in South America since 2009. Demonstartors claimed that the country is experiencing a water shortage, and that the Rally puts further pressure on its limited water supply - in addition to it being a waste of resources in a country that has a long list of urgent priorities. Government officials accused protest organisers of being politically motivated and using the Dakar Rally as an excuse to promote their political agenda. During the protests, four female demonstrators were arrested. According to official sources, they were not arrested for protesting but for provoking a public scandal when insulting and attacking police officers. According to the testimony of one of the protestors, however, skirmishes started when some people, apparently members of the ruling party, attacked one of her fellow activists who was not even demonstrating at the time.
The Law on Legal Personalities from 2013 remains in the spotlight in Bolivia. Following a decision by civil society organisations to request precautionary measures against the so-called NGO Law, which they consider to be restrictive of the freedom of association, the Minister of Autonomies stated that “not even a holy court can change" it, since it has been deemed constitutional by the Constitutional Court - the highest judicial authority in the country. On 8th October, same ministry released a statement reminding CSOs to start the process of adjustment to the new regulations as soon as possible, and warning them that a failure to do so would result in the loss of legal personality.
In late November, the Minister of Autonomies gave an interview to the newspaper El Día in which he explained that 80% of the officially registered CSOs in Bolivia were now in the process of making adjustments in order to fulfill the law's requirements. During the same interview, he gave reassurances that this measure is not intended to harass civil society.
Bolivia: Ministro de Autonomías advierte con cerrar a ONG que no haya adecuado su personería https://t.co/GJvFJF86cv— Maina Kiai (@MainaKiai_UNSR) November 30, 2016
In late November, journalist Andrés Gómez Vela and the Bolivian Human Rights Observatory (Observatorio Boliviano de Derechos Humanos) launched a report entitled “Veto publicitario, veto a la libertad de expresión" ("Advertising veto, a veto to the freedom of expression") which describes how the government's use of the advertising budget has negatively affected the freedom of expression in the country. According to the report, Bolivia lacks a public record of who is acquiring media outlets, a situation which allows government officials to buy independent media without leaving any trace. The report also includes a statement by President Morales in which he admitted that the share of opposition media has decreased from 80% to around 10-20%. Additionally, the report reveals that 55% of the official government adversiting budget in 2014 went to only three media companies.
In December, a documentary called “El Cartel de las Mentiras” (The Lies Cartel) was released. Made by order of the Ministry of the Presidency, the film asserts that the media allegedly misinformed the public regarding a case of influence peddling by Morales’ ex partner Gabriela Zapata. The president of the Journalists National Association expressed concern over the documentary, which he said threatens the work of all journalists in the country by affecting the legitimacy of their daily reporting.