Bolivia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Bolivia's status has been lowered from Free to Partly Free due to the increase in repression, threats, and acts of violence against journalists from both the government and opposition forces during the course of the recent uprising.

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, but the government's commitment to this ideal was tested during the year. After the signing of the Declaration of Chapultepec in 2002, the political and social turmoil of 2003 caused backsliding in terms of press freedom. Most newspapers are privately owned, and many have an antigovernment stance. Low literacy levels mean that for many people the main source of news is the radio, and there are both state-owned and privately run stations. The polarization of the media became more evident as the social upheaval that resulted in the end of Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada's presidency unfolded. Both the opposition and the government attempted to influence public opinion through media reports. In addition to the existing strict slander and defamation laws, the chaotic political situation in Bolivia led to an increasingly difficult environment for journalists. The number of journalists attacked and threatened by both government agents and civilian protesters increased significantly. Two radio stations were bombed, and there were attempts to censor newspapers' coverage of the popular uprising. Privately owned antigovernment media outlets were accused of inciting violence and acts of treason but were not prosecuted. Journalists at a state-owned television station resigned in protest after being pressured not to show images of violence. A 40-member independent press tribunal is currently responsible for evaluating whether or not journalists' practices violate the constitution or citizens' rights. Due to government proposals to establish a regulatory agency for the media as well as pressure from the courts, journalists at times practice self-censorship.