REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE REPUBLIC OF BOLIVIA
OF THOUGH AND EXPRESSION1
The right to free expression is part of the constitutional law of
Bolivia. Article 7 of the Political
Charter provides that under the provisions of the law governing the exercise of
that right, everyone is entitled to express his views and opinions freely by any
Since the current government took power, the activities of the Military
Junta have sought to control the mass media through direct intervention in
newspapers and broadcasting stations, or by detaining and deporting national and
foreign journalists and intervening in the operations in the operations of
On July 24, 1980, through resolution No. 03, the Ministry of Information
and Sports decreed that “as of that date, all daily and weekly news
publications, magazines, bulletins and newsletters published within the national
territory must renew their registration in this office for circulation and
publication purposes.” The foregoing was also decreed for any new temporary or
permanent publication without which authorization they too could not go into
Information received by the Commission indicates that all private
broadcasting stations, including those listed below, were closed on the day of
the military uprising:
owned by the Company of Jesus. It
was doing important work through its adult education programs.
The destruction and unlawful removal of equipment as well as the
suspension of its license have made it impossible for that station to resume
operations. Priests who were
present at the time of the events were detained by paramilitary groups receiving
orders from the Ministry of the Interior.
San Gabriel: was also
subjected to unlawful entry and pillage, which caused physical damage to its
facilities. It continues to be
under government control.
These stations continued to broadcast after July 17, heading the
resistance to the new Government, until the military occupation reached the
mining districts. Since then, they
have been in the hands of the Armed Forces.
stations, for the most part the property of the Catholic and Protestant
Churches, that were also closed are: Radio Cruz del Sur; Radio Panamericana:
Radio Cristal; San Miguel de Riberalta; San Rafael de Cochabamba; and Loyola de
Sucre. Others, such as Radio Yungas
and Radio Santa Clara have been subject to intimidation and threats by military
to the latest communications the IACHR has obtained, after some weeks of
inactivity, the private broadcasting stations resumed broadcasting and accepted
the conditions of censorship imposed by the government.
One example is the condition that no news commentaries or opinion may be
broadcast. The news has become the
exclusive monopoly of the military regime through Radio Illimani and National
Television, which is controlled and managed exclusively by the Government.
On July 18, 1980, Archbishop Jorge Manrique demanded compensation for
damages caused to the Church’s broadcasting stations and called for immediate
operation of them, demanding respect for freedom of expression.
The IACHR does not know whether this request has been granted.
The Written Press and International News Agencies
The case of the daily newspaper “Presencia”
the day of the coup, a group of paramilitary forces seized the newspaper’s
headquarters and continued to occupy them until July 20 when they were returned.
The paper, which is published by the Archbishopric of La Paz, resumed
publication on Wednesday, the 23rd of that month.
Since that date, this newspaper, which has broad national circulation,
has been subjected to pressures, from various quarters, which impinge upon and
restrict the guarantees that are necessary to its normal functioning.
Several of its journalists are detained; others were forced into exile or
to go underground. The Ministry of
the Interior exerts for the government to cut advertising and publicity in an
attempt to destabilize it economically.
December 1980, the Ministry of the Interior ordered “Presencia” to suspend
operations for one week, charging that it had published an article, which
according to Minister Arce Gómez, offended the dignity of Bolivian women.
The National Committee for the Democracy (Comité Nacional de Defensa de
la Democracia – “CONADE”) recounts in its bulletin of January 15, 1981,
the outrages suffered by this newspaper in the following terms:
officers entered the offices and printing section of the newspaper by force, and
damaged the printing presses and other equipment, forcing the staff to leave the
premises. A child was hurt by a
they proceeded to detain the correspondent from united Press International,
Alberto Zuazo Nattes, because he had maintained that the entry to
‘Presencia’ had occurred in a violent manner and that there had been
this episode, The Bolivian Episcopal Conference published a document stating
that relations between the Church and the State ‘are increasingly
deteriorating.’ The bishops noted
that armed individuals had unlawfully entered the building in the morning,
ordered the editors to raise their hands and stand against the wall, and had
then proceeded to ill treat them by word and deed, and that this conduct was
meted to journalists, administrative staff and pressmen. They further indicated that the Minister of information,
Fernando Palacios, demanded that the Editor of Presencia Huáscar Cajías,
reveal the name of the reporter who obtained a list of military personnel
promoted to the ranks of General and Major General, published in that newspaper
and that Cajías had refused to do so.
also deplored the excesses committed by a crowd in Santa Cruz that had destroyed
the ‘Presencia’ agency and burnt its Sunday edition.
the persons physically assaulted in La Paz was Bishop Genaro Pratta, Chairman of
the Board of the newspaper.
bishops warned that to try the close the ‘Presencia’ signified wishing to
muzzle the voice of the Church, and they maintained that the attitude of the
Minister of the Interior, Luis Arce Gómez was designed to bring about a break
in relations between the Church and the State.
The document was signed by Cardinal Maurer and several bishops.
this unfortunate incident, the Chairman of the Commission for Freedom of the
Press of the Inter-American Press Association, Raúl Kraiselburd, denounced the
closing of ‘Presencia,’ stating in a news release that ‘to penalize a news
medium for something published on its pages meant exactly the same as sentencing
an automobile to prison for participation in an accident.’
He added that ‘the repeated adoption or restrictive measures against
journalists and newspapers in Bolivia is a cause for concern to newsmen in the
hemisphere’ and ‘that the arguments used to justify the closing of the
newspaper ‘Presencia’ are not acceptable because, as is common knowledge,
offences are not committed BY the press, but rather THROUGH the press.’
He further stated that ‘the gravity of the situation and the
illegitimate nature of the measure adopted are also clear since the sanction was
imposed by the administration without any possibilities for defence in court,
which must precede any penalty.” He
added that that Commission was obliged to sat that ‘unfortunately, the measure
taken confirms the existence of a tendency to violate the people’s right to
Other reports indicate that weeklies such as “Aquí,” “Golpe,”
“Apertura,” and “Clarín Internacional” were obliged to discontinue
operations because of lack of guarantees. The same occurred with international news agencies for days
following July 17 when news abroad was limited, and several of their
correspondents who had been detained were subject to intimidation and threat.
Noted is the fact that teletypes from France Press received extensive
damage from security officers.3
It is estimated that a total of approximately 40 journalists have been
detained and/or deported from the country, not counting those who were put out
of work because the news media with which they worked were closed down.
The communications media–with the exception of the miners’ radio
stations–are now operating, and there are no formal or legal limitations on
free expression. Despite this, the atmosphere of intimidation surrounding the
media has, in the Commission’s opinion, created a high level of self-censure
which is restricting the full enjoyment of these rights.
8. The Commission learned in August 1981 of the detention and subsequent release of Mariano Baptista and Jaime Ríos, editors of the evening newspapers “Ultima Hora” and “Jornada.” As a result of this occurrence and the events surrounding General García Meza’s resignation, the Minister of the Interior confirmed that the measures imposed on July 17, 1980 continued in effect, and that all the media should consult the Ministry of the Interior about any news that might be published.
American Convention on Human Rights:
Article 13. Freedom of Thought and Expression:
1. Everyone has the
right to freedom of thought and expression.
This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information
and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing,
in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one’s choice.
2. The exercise of the
right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior
censorship but shall be subject o subsequent imposition of liability, which
shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure:
a. respect for the
rights and reputations of others; or b.
the protection of national security, public order, or public health
or morals. 3.
The right of expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or
means, such as the abuse of government or private controls over newsprint,
radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the dissemination of
information, or by any means tending to impede the communication and
circulation of ideas and opinions. 4.
Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 above, public
entertainments may be subject by law to prior censorship for the sole
purpose of regulating access to them for the moral protection of childhood
and adolescence. 5.
Any propaganda for war and any advocacy for national, racial, or
religious hatred that constitute incitements to lawless violence or to any
other similar illegal action against any person or group of persons on any
grounds including those of race, color, religion, language, or national
origin shall be considered as offenses punishable by law.
2. On the afternoon of July 19, Radio Anima in the mining
district in the south of Potosí went off the air as a result of the
military occupation following serious clashes.
The day after the attack on the Huanuni mining camp, Radio
Nacional in Huanuni was destroyed.
Radio Vanguardia in Calguisi was bombed by an Air Force plane
and silenced. By the beginning
of the week, the only three stations in the mining district of Catavi that
were in operation were the 21 de deiciembre, Voz de Minero, and the Pío
XII. In the face of the persistent military siege of the region,
they decided to cease broadcasting on Wednesday July 23. The trade union broadcasting station Continental is
Among the journalists subjected to some form of persecution or other,
we cite the following by way of example:
Daniel Acebez, detained at the headquarters of the COB; Eduardo Pérez,
S.J., General manager of Radio Fides; José Marco, Manager of Radio Fides;
Vicente Beneyte, S.J., Superior of the Jesuit Community.
All those of Radio Fides were robbed and mistreated, and accused of
being communist priests. José Marco was taken prisoner, Harole Almos of Associated
Press was deported, Eduarde Pérez Irabarne, Agence France Press, was
deported following several days of detention, Mary Hiller Spooner of The
Financial Times was deported, René Bascopé, editor of Aquí was
detained, Felix Godoy, promotion Manager of Radio Pío XII, was detained,
Oscar Peña, President of the Confederation of Bolivian Journalists, former
Press Secretary with the Administration under President Lidia Gueiler, was
detained, Fernando Salazar Paredes, journalist, the former Minister of
Regional Affairs in the previous Administration was detained; Mario
Maldonado Vizcarra, Editor of La Presencia, a national of Argentina
was detained, and Jaime Vergara, director of the Research Center (CIDOB).