As of December 31, 1998

The Bolivian press is vibrant and independent, despite the country's poverty and low literacy rate. After a long battle, journalists succeeded in July in killing amendments to the press law which would have allowed judges to compel journalists to reveal their sources. While the 1925 press law defines defamation as a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison (the sentence can be doubled if the official in question is the president, vice president, or a minister), there were no prosecutions in 1998. Journalists say the criminal defamation statutes are not a hindrance to their work because the special tribunals established under the press law to try journalists for offenses related to their profession generally rule in favor of the journalists. CPJ, however, opposes all such special tribunals for journalists because they can be – and generally are – used to persecute rather than protect the press.

Although the Asociación de Periodistas de La Paz has petitioned the government to enforce a law limiting the practice of journalism to those who have university degrees, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica ruled in 1985 that laws requiring the mandatory licensing of journalists violate the American Convention on Human Rights.

While physical attacks against the press are rare, journalists were roughed up in two separate incidents in the city of Santa Cruz. After protests by local press groups, the police commander in Santa Cruz was dismissed and President Hugo Banzer publicly apologized.

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