Civil society report: Number of attacks against journalists doubled last year

On 4th May 2017, the government of Bolivia issued a statement confirming that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)  would leave the country in December 2017, after the bi-party agreement has expired. 

During the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed disappointment over the office's closing. However, he emphasised that "[w]e will nonetheless continue to follow the human rights situation in Bolivia to the extent possible”.

Expression

On 10th May, Asociación Nacional de Periodistas (National Association of Journalists) documented 59 cases of verbal and physical attacks against journalists in 2016. This number doubles the number of attacks (28) documented in 2015. 

On 17th June, Comité Ejecutivo Nacional de la Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores de la Prensa de Bolivia (Union of Journalists of Bolivia) demanded that the government end its harassment of journalist Wilson García Mérida.

Mérida was accused of sedition in 2016 by the then Minister of Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana. He had to leave the country and is currently living in Brazil. After the journalist left Bolivia, Reporters without Borders requested that the Minister clarify the motives behind the accusation and present evidence of the charges, otherwise, “the accusation must be withdrawn to avoid adding this to the long list of governmental tactics to silent dissent”.

Peaceful Assembly

Tension rose in the southern city of Camiri in June 2017, when citizens began a series of protests to demand the resignation of the city's mayor and councillors on allegations of corruption. Demonstrators decided to block the main road connecting Bolivia with Paraguay and Argentina. Police intervened to unblock the road, arresting 26 people in the process. 

In early July, a judge was working on a femicide case that occurred in 2014. Women's rights groups had gathered around the court to demonstrate, when the judge requested a greater police presence to contain the protests. One of the protest participants - Observatorio Para La Exigibilidad De Los Derechos De Las Mujeres - commented on the judge's request for more police, saying that it was done to “silence organisations [and] cover up the lack of impartiality towards the perpetrator”.