Bolivia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Bolivia

Bolivia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

33

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

13

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

10

Freedom of the press remains compromised by inadequate legal guarantees. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but Bolivia's penal code stipulates that journalists can be jailed for one month to two years if found guilty of slandering, insulting, or defaming public officials. When the infractions involve the president, vice president, or a minister, the sentence may be doubled. In a significant advance, a new Freedom of Information law was enacted in March. The decree mandates that public institutions must respond to information requests within a maximum of 15 days. Whether or not public institutions will comply with the new law remains an open question, especially after a journalist was denied access to information on a corruption case in the department of Tarija by the Presidential Anticorruption Delegation.

Bolivia's journalists continued to face the challenges of reporting on their country's volatile politics. Mass demonstrations forced the resignation of President Carlos Mesa in June, and in December the presidential election produced a victory for the leftist indigenous leader Evo Morales. The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) reported that journalists were free to cover the street protests, and international election monitors did not observe any barriers to press coverage of either the campaigns or the election. Physical attacks on journalists were not great in number but included an assault on a television news crew by protesters in Santa Cruz and the beating of camera operators on two separate occasions by both smugglers in Oruro and military policemen. The IAPA called on the Bolivian government to renew efforts to investigate and prosecute the 2001 murder of a journalist killed by gang members.

Print media are privately owned and diverse in their editorial views. The television industry is privately owned except for one government-owned TV network. Broadcast outlets express a variety of political views, but stations have been criticized for their overt partisanship in news coverage. An international monitoring mission noted that television coverage tilted heavily against Morales; those outlets from the eastern department of Santa Cruz were found to be among the most hostile to the new president. The powerful Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and the Association of Industries, Commerce, Services, and Tourism of Santa Cruz declared the talk show host Guido Guardia to be "dead in a civil sense" for his criticisms and support for Morales, and Guardia's TV show was subsequently canceled. With the exception of one government-run outlet, radio stations are also privately owned. Radio is the major news disseminator in the countryside, with an estimated 480 stations nationwide. One of the largest networks is Radio Erbol, operated by a consortium of 70 churches. In recent years, Bolivia has experienced a growth in alternative media that includes radio along with new internet news operations. The internet is not restricted by the government.