Concerns after National Police confirms the existence of a social media monitoring unit

Association

On 6th December 2018, the Observatorio de los derechos LGBT (LGBT rights Observatorypublished the story of Roberto Condori, journalist and LGBT activist in Bolivia who has been facing discrimination and threats due to his activism and his sexual orientation. Condori is also part of the aymara indigenous community, which as he explained, adds additional challenges due to the patriarchy that rule indigenous communities, according to the activist. Despite these challenges, the activist moved forward to advocate for the rights of the LGBTI community through the production of documentaries that show the struggles of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people within indigenous communities.

Peaceful Assembly 

On 22nd November 2018, activists of the 21-F Movement, a group that opposes the candidacy of President Morales for re-election demonstrated in several cities in Bolivia. One of the protests took place in front of the Departmental Electoral Court in La Paz and no incidents were reported. The movement was born after the referendum on 21st February 2016, where citizens rejected a constitutional amendment to let Evo Morales run for a further term in 2019.

On 6th December 2018, a coalition of CSOs and social movements organised a national protest to support the 21-F Movement. The day ended with reports of clashes between demonstrators and police officers in La Paz. Suleydi Estivariz died after she fell and hit her head during a struggle with police officers. Two police officers were reportedly injured during the protest. 

Expression

The Inter-American Press Association expressed its concern about the Ley de Organizaciones Políticas (Law of Political Organisation) that mandates private media to publish electoral-related advertisements free of charge. The organisation claims this provision could negatively  affect the economic situation of some media outlets. The president of the organisation, Gustavo Mohme, said that the legislation "maintains the government's line of imposing and using private media as another instrument for the execution of its policies and decisions". 

In a separate incident, in October 2018, the Asociación Nacional de la Prensa de Bolivia (National Association of the Press, ANP) denounced the verbal attack suffered by Jaime Iturri Salmón, content director of the ATB television network. In addition, ANP rejected the suspension of the radio program “Cabildeo” after the journalist Amalia Pando interviewed former president Carlos Mesa, who is currently a presidential candidate.

On 15th November 2018, the independent journal Página Siete, reported that representatives of the Association of Volunteers against Childhood Cancer (AVCCI) harassed one of its journalists. This incident occurred after the publication of a story in which parents of children with cancer demanded more accountability of AVCCI. The parents claimed that money promised through AVCCI's campaign "Un ají de fideo por los niños con cáncer", is not reaching the children. Página Siete reported that the journalist received threatening phone calls.  AVCCI also published a statement rejecting the story as "false".

On 27th November 2018, an audio was leaked in which the General Police Commander Faustino Mendoza speaks about the surveillance of social media messages from journalists and politicians. However, according to Commander Mendoza, the messages included in the leak video "were deliberately manipulated, edited and addressed with personal purposes and interests that intend to produce a media show". He also admitted, to the existence of a monitoring unit for social networks and media which seeks to protect citizens from fake news and cyber-crime. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza, requested the Bolivian government to clarify if the government is monitoring journalists for their work.