Afrique Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Bolivia2 July 2007

Letter to President Evo Morales about decree on how community radio frequencies are to be assigned

Mr. Evo Morales Ayma
President of Bolivia

Dear Mr. President,

Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, would like to raise the matter of decree 29174 with you. Issued by your office on 20 June, this decree establishes new rules for community radio stations and gives them six months to comply, failing which their broadcast licences could be withdrawn by the Superintendency for Telecommunications.

Decree 29174 is meant to serve a necessary and desirable purpose. Its goal is to facilitate the creation of media in rural areas whose inhabitants, for technical reasons, lack ready access to news and communication media (Internet, phone and broadcast coverage). Like so-called cultural and educational radio stations, community radios will not have to pay taxes on the acquisition and use of frequencies. From now on, only commercial stations will be taxed. This is a step in the right direction.

However, the criteria for assigning and renewing frequencies pose a problem. Decree 29174 says that a representative of the government, legislature or judiciary cannot own a community radio. This provision also applies to politicians in general, trade union leaders and religious ministers. But they are all citizens, with a right to possess a news media like any citizen. What are the grounds for banning them?

This is the most problematic aspect of the decree. Assigning and renewing a frequency is conditioned on the community radio station’s abstaining from “broadcasting partisan or proselytising messages of any kind” and limiting itself to educational, cultural or community messages. We think it is up to each media to define its own editorial policies. Curiously, this provision does not apply to some 30 newly-created community radio stations because they fall under the category of cultural and educational media. Such unequal treatment before the law is astonishing.

For this reason, Reporters Without Borders hopes that decree 29174 will be amended and made more flexible, in consultation with representatives of the press and civil society. By way of example, our organisation welcomed a bill regulating community media which Uruguayan legislators passed on 5 June. This bill establishes an Honorary Consultative Council consisting of government, civil society and academic representatives with authority to intervene in the process of assigning and renewing frequencies.

I thank you in advance for giving this letter your careful consideration.


Robert Ménard

In this country
19 January - Bolivia
On eve of constitutional referendum, politicians and media urged to act responsibly
20 November - Bolivia
Pro-government militant under house arrest after new attack on journalists
15 September - Bolivia
Reporters Without Borders urges president and opposition prefects to restore calm after ten days of severe violence
20 August - Bolivia
Call to stop new violence against media in wake of recall vote
11 August - Bolivia
Recall referendum goes off quietly, with only a few isolated attacks on press

in the annual report
Bolivia - Annual Report 2008
Bolivia - Annual report 2007
Bolivia - Annual report 2006

14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

Americas archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Sign the petitions
Miguel Galván Gutiérrez
Fabio Prieto Llorente
United States
Chauncey Bailey
A petition to Raúl Castro