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Bolivia13 September 2006

"Media war" feared after petrol bombs thrown at public TV station in Santa Cruz

Deploring the two petrol bombs that were thrown at the Canal 7 public television station in the eastern city of Santa Cruz on 8 September, Reporters Without Borders today urged all parties to respect media pluralism in Bolivia and warned that a “media war” would only aggravate an already tense political situation.

“We firmly condemn this targeted act of vandalism against Canal 7 and we express our solidarity with all of its journalists and employees,” the press freedom organisation said. “This attack comes at a time of increasingly worrying confrontation between supporters and opponents of President Evo Morales.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We hope the media will not become tools in any conflict, as they were in Venezuela at the time of the April 2002 coup attempt, and we hope an irreversible division will not develop between the public and privately-owned media, one that would expose journalists to real danger in the course of their work.”

Santa Cruz is Bolivia’s business capital and an opposition stronghold. One of the two bombs thrown at Canal 7 exploded 10 metres wide of its target. They other hit the station but caused very little damage and no one was injured. The authorities are not ruling out the possibility of a direct link with the protests by the fiercely anti-government Unión Juvenil Cruceñista that paralysed Santa Cruz the same day and included acts of vandalism.

Juan Domingo Yanique, a correspondent of the state-owned Red Patría Nueva radio network, was threatened while covering an opposition demonstration organised the same day in Pando, in the far north of Bolivia, by the Pando Civic Committee. The protesters surrounded Yanique and expelled from the march when they realised he worked for the public media.

Elected president last December, Morales is facing demands for autonomy from four of Bolivia’s nine departments, including Santa Cruz and Pando, where the opposition is challenging his nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas and the creation of a constituent assembly on 6 August.

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