Freedom of the Press
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)
Heightened political tensions in 2006 resulted in a climate of increased hostility toward the press among both government and opposition supporters. 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 increased by half. In May 2006, in the face of increasing discussion regarding potential changes to the 1925 Printing Law that still governs Bolivian media, several journalists groups combined to form a National Ethics Council. The council’s goal is to act as a self-regulator, establishing a code of ethics and journalistic standards and issuing resolutions regarding violations of these guidelines.
Bolivia’s journalists continued to face the challenges of reporting on their country’s volatile politics. President Evo Morales, who took office January 2006, used his inaugural address to criticize opposition media outlets, a perspective that he repeated on several occasions throughout the year. As political conflict between Bolivia’s eastern and western regions mounted throughout the year, attacks on journalists increased as well. The state-owned television channel, Canal 7, was attacked on both September 8 and December 6 in Santa Cruz, an opposition stronghold. Meanwhile, opposition-aligned television channel Unitel, whose owner was declared an enemy of the state by President Morales, was attacked in La Paz on October 12 and December 8. In November, police officers assaulted Martin Alipaz, a reporter from the Spanish news agency EFE, while he was covering a protest in Konani. The year’s protests peaked in mid-December with rallies throughout the country; in incidents on December 12 and December 15, nearly a dozen journalists—both government and opposition supporters—were assaulted in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. According to the U.S. State Department, the newspaper El Nuevo Dia, with the support of the national press association and human rights groups, filed a complaint against Interior Vice Minister Ruben Gamarra after its journalist Jose Antonio Quisbert was arrested while investigating allegations of corruption in the immigration service.
Print media are privately owned and diverse in their editorial views. The television industry is privately owned except for one government-run TV network. Broadcast outlets express a variety of political views, but stations have been criticized for their overt partisanship in news coverage, with outlets from the eastern department of Santa Cruz among the most hostile to the new president. With the exception of one government-run outlet, radio stations are also privately owned. Radio is the major news disseminator to the countryside, with an estimated 800 stations nationwide. With Venezuelan financial support, the government embarked on an effort to establish a new set of community radio networks. One of the largest is Radio Erbol, operated by a consortium of 70 churches. Conflict between newspaper vendors and the newspaper La Razon resulted in violence when the daily’s employees attempted to distribute the paper themselves. 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, but barely 5 percent of the population was able to access it in 2006.