Bolivian court upholds controversial civil society law

Association

On 6th July, the Constitutional Court  declared the Law on Legal Entities, which gives the executive the power to close civil society organisations deemed not be contributing to the economic and social development of the country. The Constitutional Court stated that by no means does the legislation threaten any constitutional right. Bolivian CSOs claim however that this decision was motivated by president Evo Morales’ desire to exploit the country's natural resources. During the opening of an oil well in June 2015, president Morales threatened to expel CSOs that interfere with the exploitation of mineral resources which, he claimed, would lead to an improvement in Bolivia's economy. The court's decision, which technically legalised the power to close and expel CSOs deemed to be working against government interests, is a clear violation the right to freedom of association as established in international law. 

Peaceful Assembly

Recently, the police have targeted both people living with disabilities and indigenous people as they attempted to assert their right to peacefully assemble. 

In late April 2016, several groups of people living with disabilities  marched from Cochabamba to La Paz (a distance of around 350 kilometres) to demand an increase in the subsidy they receive from the state. As they attempted to gather in front of the presidential palace to make their demands, police officers blocked all routes to the palace. In May, as protesters tried several times to access Murillo Square, they were forcefully obstructed by police using tear gas and pepper spray. Six people were arrested during the protests.

Authorities have also recently repressed the protest rights of indigenous people. Most notably, in August 2015 police, again using tear gas, forcefully removed protesters blocking the road to an oil well. Protesters left the road and went to a nearby community where police officers followed them and arrested 27 people, including four women and two minors. 

Expression 

Harassment of journalists from the highest levels of government in Bolivia is common. Bolivian law states that journalists have a duty to adhere to principles of morals and ethics in their reporting. The authorities use these concepts - broadly interpreted - to put pressure on journalists and to allege that they are spreading falsehoods through their reporting. 

In June, the Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos released a  statement claiming that Bolivian government is trying to impose “official truths”, a strategy which they say threatens freedom of expression. The statement also notes the case of seven journalists who had to leave the country following harassment from government officials. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) rejected the vice president of Bolivia's threat to arrest journalists who report on a relationship scandal between president Morales and his former wife.

No physical attacks against journalists or raids on media headquarters were reported in the last six months, and the Inter-American Press Association has not reported any cases of murdered journalists.