Freedom House condemns a Bolivian court decision on March 16 to uphold the two-and-a-half year prison sentence against journalist Rogelio Peláez, director of Larga Vista, on charges of criminal libel for accusing a local lawyer of embezzlement. The High Court should repeal his sentence. Peláez was sentenced to prison after publishing stories in 2009 and 2010 denouncing corruption – he accused a local lawyer, Waldo Molina, of embezzling funds while representing a government agency. Peláez alleged that Molina improperly collected nearly half a million dollars in government funds for representing plaintiffs in a corruption case involving a state social security fund, according to news reports. This is the first criminal sentence against a journalist for defamation since 1997.
Bolivia is ranked Partly Free in the Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. Threats and attacks against the news media have occurred with increasing regularity in the last two years.