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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Bolivia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Bolivia, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c564f8c.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Bolivian journalists began to take a more vigilant role in promoting press freedom, along with journalists throughout Latin America, who are reacting more vigorously to threats against their colleagues and official efforts to intimidate the press. The Bolivian press has become more aggressive, reporting cases of government corruption. National opinion polls have revealed that the general public feels the press has more credibility than other national institution, including the Catholic Church.

But the press's more aggressive posture resulted in a death threat against one journalist and a libel suit against another. On March 15, Osvaldo Calle, a reporter with the La Paz daily Ultima Hora, received an anonymous death threat at the newspaper's office. The newspaper received several calls from a man inquiring about Calle's schedule. Calle, a reporter with the financial section, had reported on Bolivia's privatization of state enterprises.

On June 25, Ronald Méndez Alpire, a journalist and author, was sentenced to two years in prison for libel. In his book, Financial Puzzle, Méndez Alpire alleged that a former bank regulator was responsible for actions that led to two bank failures. The charges against the bank official were confirmed in a report by the controller general. News organizations and members of Congress protested Méndez's sentence. Méndez is free, pending an appeal.

March 19
Osvaldo Calle, Ultima Hora de La Paz, THREATENED

Calle, a reporter with the daily Ultima Hora de La Paz, received an anonymous death threat sent to his newspaper's office. Also, since March 15, the receptionists at the daily received several anonymous phone calls from a man inquiring about the hours when Calle arrived and left the office. After the newspaper publicized the incident, the threats stopped. Calle, who works for the paper's financial section, had reported on the involvement of politicians in two high-profile bank bankruptcy cases two years ago.

June 26
Ronald Mendez Alpire, LEGAL ACTION

Mendez Alpire, a journalist and author of three books on corruption in the Bank Supervisory Board, a federal regulatory agency, was sentenced to two years in prison for libel. The charges stemmed from Mendez Alpire's book Financial Puzzle, in which he alleged that a former bank regulator, Luis del Rio Chavez, was responsible for actions that led to two bank failures and cost the Bolivian treasury US$200 million. An official report by the controller general's office later accused del Rio of the same offenses, but a judge found Mendez Alpire guilty of libel anyway. Several news organizations and members of Congress called the sentence illegal and demanded an investigation. Mendez Alpire is currently free, pending his appeal.

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