Bolivia Re-Election

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H.E. Evo Morales Ayma
President
Palacio de Gobierno
Plaza Murillo
La Paz
Republic of Bolivia
Fax: (011.591.2) 20.42.13

Your Excellency:

Congratulations on your re-election!  The Overseas Press Club of America takes this occasion to express its alarm over what appear to be government-inspired attacks on the press, both physically and verbally.

As Juan Javier Zeballos, executive director of the Asociación Nacional de Prensa has put it, the climate for the independent media in Bolivia has become “increasingly oppressive and aggressive.”  According to the ANP, in the fourteen months ending in October, there were one hundred twenty-three physical attacks on journalists and one hundred sixty-four attacks.  One journalist was murdered.

The recent general assembly of the Inter-American Press Association in Buenos Aires stated that officials and uniformed police had been involved in some of the attacks.  Members of the UTARC (Unidad Táctica de Resolución de Crisis) of the police and, specifically, police captain, Walter Andrade, have been identified as attackers.  Journalists performing their proper duties have been beaten, kidnapped, dragged to police stations.  Their offices have been attacked and damaged.

While some of the attacks have been made by your political opponents, the majority have been made by your supporters against your critics in the newspapers and on television.  It is impossible not to connect these attacks with your declaration that the press is your enemy and similar statements by other government officials, including one that journalists are traitors.  The Inter-American Press Association observed that many of the physical attacks have occurred after verbal attacks from members of your government.

In a democracy, there is always some tension between the press and the government.  While democratic governments often face a critical domestic press, and the criticism may at times seem irresponsible and inaccurate, that can not be a reason for gagging journalists.  The legitimate role of the press is to hold governments to account.  How else can the public know what government officials are doing if the press does not act as a watchdog?

A government can legitimately draw attention to errors in the press, argue with editorial viewpoints, and present its own policies.  But to beat up journalists and bomb their offices is the tactic of dictators.

Respectfully yours,

Jeremy Main   
Kevin McDermott
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Alfredo Rada
Ministro de Gobierno
Avenida Arce 2409
La Paz
Republic of Bolivia

Erika Dueňas
Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of the Republic of Bolivia
3014 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington DC  20008
Fax: (202) 328.3712

Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bolivia to the United Nations
211 East 43rd Street, Room 802
New York, NY  10017
Fax: (212) 687.4642

John S. Creamer
Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of the United States of America
Avenida Arce 2780 (Casilla 425)
La Paz
Bolivia

Sr. Juan Javier Zeballos
Director Ejecutivo
Asociación Nacional de Prensa
Claudio Allaga 1290 (piso 2)
San Miguel, La Paz
Bolivia

Sr. Antonio Carrasco Guzmán
Director
El Diario
Calle Loayza #118
La Paz
Bolivia

Sr. Alcides Flores Moncada
Jefe de Redacción
Los Tiempos
Edificio Los Tiempos
Plaza Quintanilla, Casilla 525
Cochabamba
Bolivia

Director
La Razón
La Paz
Bolivia
jcrocha@larazon.com

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