Freedom of expression in Bolivia under governmental scrutiny!

Pagina Siete writes about Reporters without Borders findings:

Bolivia occupies 108 position in the ranking freedom of the press

METHODOLOGY the countries that have low note top the list, while those with a higher score are those with severe restrictions on the journalistic work.

Bolivia ranked 108 in the world classification of the freedom of press 2011-2012, implying that fell five steps with regard to the report of 2010, in which the country ranked 103, according to a publication of reporters without borders (RSF) before the process announced by the Government against three media, yesterday reported ANF.

RSF is an organization that promotes and defends the freedom to inform and be informed anywhere in the world and every year is responsible for carrying out this study.

In accordance with the methodology that applies this international organization, there is a note regarding the aggression and difficulties facing journalists to carry out their job.

This methodology indicates countries that have low note to top the list, while the higher score are those in which there are severe attacks on the journalistic work.

For example, Finland leads the rankings with ten points, Bolivia is ranked 108 with 40 points and Korea of the North and Eritrea (Africa) added more than 140 points, representing, according to RSF, which there is virtually no freedom of the press in these two countries.

Best located Latin Americans are Costa Rica, ranked 19, and Uruguay, 32, while Cuba are in the last position (167), Mexico (149), Colombia (143) and Venezuela (117).

In this context, RSF asked the Bolivian Government on Tuesday to withdraw complaints filed against ANF, Pagina Siete and El Diario, who are accused for alleged “incitement to racism” after playing parts of speech that pronounced the President Evo Morales Ayma in Tiwanaku.

On this subject, Romana Castro Zamorano, researcher at the University Heinrich-Heine Düsseldorf (Germany), linguistic and philologist and researcher of the politician speech, stated that the press is free to make interpretations that may consider appropriate with respect to a speech and ruled out that in her country a trial can be installed by a similar case.

“In Germany you could not pass (while) there are stereotypes and prejudices between East and West Germany, would not be possible for the Chancellor to say that (…)” “If those words would be said, a huge scandal, but would not be a trial to the press”, said Castro. [in other words, the Chancellor would be prosecuted, not the media!!]

[Looking into Reporters Without Borders website, I caught a recent article, which I reproduce below in its entirety:]



Journalists’ unions and media associations are calling for demonstrations this week in support of three news media – the Jesuit-owned news agency ANF and two dailies, Página Siete and El Diario – which the government has accused of violating Law 045 on racism and all forms of discrimination.

The government says they twisted controversial comments that President Evo Morales made during a visit to the southwestern city of Uyuni on August, in which he contrasted western Bolivia’s cold altiplano with the tropical lowlands in the east of the country.

Morales sad: “In the east, where you can grow crops all year round, you can only be poor or lack food if you lack the determination. But it is different in the Altiplano. There is no food in the Altiplano if it freezes, if there is no rain, or if it hails. But not in the east. You go hungry in the east only if you are lazy.”

The dispatch that ANF ran the same day on the speech was headlined: “Evo says you are only hungry in the east if you are lazy.” Página Siete’s report the next day was headlined, “Evo describes the inhabitants of the east of the country as lazy,” while El Diario said: “Evo thinks the east is lazy and is accused of discrimination.”

The three media were promptly accused by communication minister Amanda Dávila of “tendentious distortion” and, on 21 August, a complaint was brought against them at the behest of the president’s office under Law 045, which punishes “disseminating and inciting racism and discrimination” and carries a possible sentence of one to five years in jail.

“As pointed out by the organizations that have signed an appeal for support for these three news media, any distortion of the president’s comments should normally be a matter for the Printing Law, under which print media offences are supposed to be tried,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The anti-racism law is being used to accuse the media of the same discriminatory attitude they accused the president of displaying. How can this charge stand, when it is based on such an absurd inversion of logic?

“Even accepting that ANFPágina Siete and El Diario misquoted President Morales, they had every right to question the ill-conceived and clumsy nature of his comments. The government must withdraw its complaint or the prosecutor’s office must declare it to be inadmissible.”

Law 045 on racism and all forms of discrimination prompted a great deal of concern when promulgated in October 2010 because of the poor wording of some of its articles. There was concern above all about the possibility of news media or journalists being held responsible for the racist or discriminatory comments they quoted.

Regulations that were later adopted, defining how the law should be interpreted, eliminated this ambiguity and received Reporters Without Borders’ approval at the time.

“The proceedings initiated against these three news media have taken us back to the initial flaws in this law, one which nonetheless has every reason to be on Bolivia’s statute books,” Reporters Without Borders added.

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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