The law provides for freedom of speech and press. Although the government generally respected these rights, it initiated some restrictions on press freedom. There were also some instances of violence or harassment.
Freedom of Press: The law provides for freedom of the press. Although the government generally respected this right, it maintained an antagonistic relationship with the press.
The July 4 electoral law introduced restrictions on publicizing information about candidates in the October 16 judicial elections. The regulations prohibited candidates from campaigning and restricted the press from reporting unauthorized coverage of, or support for, individual candidates. Several main media organizations criticized the restrictions, stating they violated “the constitution that provides for freedom of expression, opinion, and information of both journalists and ordinary citizens.”
The August 8 Telecommunications Law calls for the redistribution of broadcasting licenses and provides the government with 33 percent of them. The Bolivian Broadcasting Association complained the law would “restrict the liberty of expression” and stated it could lose 400 broadcasters to the government when their licenses expire in 2017.
Violence and Harassment: There were some reports of violence against the press and harassment by the government. On April 15, police attacked Red Uno camera operator Israel Gutierrez, Bolivision camera operator Carlos Saavedra, and Pagina Siete photographer Henry Ponce during a confrontation between police and a workers’ union outside La Paz. Police broke the cameras of Gutierrez and Saavedra and seized the memory cards of Ponce’s camera. Civilians attacked two other reporters. As of year’s end the government had not opened an investigation.
On July 11, the editor of El Sol de Pando newspaper, Wilson Garcia Merida, accused the MAS governor of Pando Department, Luis Flores Roberts, of having ordered the seizure of 2,000 copies of an issue of the newspaper to prevent the dissemination of a report alleging irregularities in the management of the regional authority (see section 4). On July 28, Ricardo Torres, legal affairs clerk of the state government, rejected the charge.
In September journalist Monica Oblitas reported receiving anonymous threatening telephone calls and e‑mails since April 4, when La Paz newspaper La Prensa published her report about medical forensics doctor Erika Hinojosa, who allegedly produced false medical documents in exchange for money. Oblitas stated that her son had left the country due to safety concerns.
In September, during a confrontation between protesters in Beni, residents attacked Samy Schwartz, a photojournalist for several newspapers, after he took pictures of the protesters’ blockade. Radio Fides reporter Cesar Tamayo suffered injuries and had his equipment destroyed when blockade participants beat him for reporting on the situation. Police were present at the time and did not defend Schwartz or the other reporters. Authorities did not investigate the incident (see section 2.b.).
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law provides that a person found guilty of insulting, defaming, or slandering public officials for carrying out their duties may be detained from one month to two years. The sentence is doubled for insults directed against the president, vice president, or a minister. Journalists accused of violating the constitution or law are referred to the Press Tribunal, an independent body authorized to evaluate journalists’ practices and apply sanctions.
On July 18, journalist Richard Romero was detained for distributing a documentary that allegedly defamed President Morales. Romero was released after 48 hours, but the case remained open.
The October 2010 Law against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination empowers the government to shut news outlets and arrest journalists for publishing content it deems racist. No one was arrested under this law during the year.
Libel Laws/National Security: Some national and local authorities occasionally used libel laws to suppress criticism. In March journalist Mario Caro of Radio Kollasuyo in Potosi was accused of libel after making various accusations of irregularities against authorities in the Office of the Secretary of the Environment in Potosi. Investigation of the case continued at year's end.
In September Prosecutor Marcelo Soza accused VERDES party Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas of slander after Costas made comments about him in a case. On December 19, a court issued an arrest warrant for Costas for failure to appear in court. At year’s end Costas had not been arrested.
During the year the September 2010 sentence against former president Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga of the National Democratic Action (AND) party for defamation was commuted, and he did not serve time in jail.