Bolivia - Fresh upsurge of violence against journalists during autonomy referendum



    MONTREAL, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today condemned
attacks on journalists during a referendum on autonomy in the northern
department of Beni yesterday.
    At least two media were targeted for threats and harassment by groups
linked to the opposition to the government in La Paz, including the Juvenil
Crucenista Union (UJC), a radical militia that stemmed from the independence
movement in Santa Cruz department.
    "Armed groups hostile to the government in La Paz are increasingly acting
like predators on freedom of information," the worldwide press freedom
organisation said. "The recent autonomy referendums - in Santa Cruz on 4 May
and yesterday in the departments of Pando and Beni - are adding to a climate
of political tension in which the press is one of the first to be targeted".
    Clashes between supporters and opponents of autonomy during the
consultation process in Beni led to a variety of obstructions of the work of
the press. In the department's capital, Trinidad, members of the UJC
systematically harassed special correspondents for state-run Canal 7
television.
    One of its journalists, René Martinez, said that the cables on its
transmission vehicle were twice cut with machetes. "They managed to interrupt
our programme twice this Sunday. Then as we were visiting schools for the vote
count, the same youths insulted and threatened us", he said. "Our cameraman,
Edgar Quenallata, had to leave and I was forced to flee on a motorbike", he
told Reporters Without Borders.
    Meanwhile, in Riberalta, a group of pro-autonomy thugs chased after
another team from Canal 7, forcing them to take refuge in the home of a local
resident.
    Community, indigenous and peasant media, regularly targeted for racist
violence by militia hostile to President Evo Morales, were not spared during
the referendum violence in Beni. Gumersindo Yumani, of Coordinadora
Audiovisual Indigena television was threatened in Nuevos Horizontes by
militants of the Juvenil Riberaltena Union, a similar organisation to the UJC,
who snatched his camera and handed it back with images deleted.
    Several other state media, considered close to the government, were
harassed throughout the weekend, particularly the international TV Telesur,
Canal Universitario de Trinidad, Televisisn Boliviana, Radio Patria Nueva, the
Bolivian News Agency (ABI) and the specialised Cinematography, Education and
Production Centre (CEFREC).
    Reporters Without Borders urged that beyond a general commitment within
Bolivia's political class to basic freedoms, including freedom of information,
that "all opposition political parties should publicly distance themselves
from these regional militia and contribute to justice."




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary General,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org,
www.rsfcanada.org

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