Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although the constitution provides for press freedom, the ongoing political crisis in the country, economic conditions, and restrictive libel laws continued to impact reporting in 2004. According to the Bolivian penal code, individuals found guilty of insulting, defaming, or slandering public officials for carrying out their duties may be sentenced to up to two years in jail, with longer sentences in cases involving the president, vice president, or a minister. These statutes contribute to self-censorship. An independent body called the Press Tribunal is authorized to evaluate journalists' work and address allegations that journalists have violated the constitution or citizens' rights. In January, in the first judgment since the tribunal's creation in 1929, the body found a reporter not guilty of charges of injuries and defamation.
Journalists reporting on corruption and the ongoing protests against official policies reported difficulties in carrying out their work; police forces prevented journalists from covering some events by forcibly removing them. Carmen Torres, a reporter with La Patria, received death threats after publishing accounts of illegal trafficking of exotic animals.
Privately owned print and broadcast media provide a range of views and frequently criticize the government, and state-run outlets generally operate freely. However, media ownership remains highly concentrated. With much of the population illiterate or speaking indigenous languages, community radio stations play a critical role in the dissemination of news and reporting. In May, government ministers and President Carlos Mesa ratified the Decree on Community-Based Radio Broadcasting, which legally recognizes community-based broadcasting and opens space for expanding local radio networks. This decree also complies with one of the recommendations made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding radio broadcasting.