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Bolivia19 June 2008

Trial adjourned of alleged killers of Carlos Quispe Quispe

The trial of the alleged killers of Carlos Quispe Quispe, journalist on Radio Municipal Pucarani, which had been scheduled to open on 18 June, has been adjourned to a later date. Jorge Borda, lawyer for the civil party to the case, said that the judge, Carlos Fiorilo referred to “other more urgent matters” to justify the adjournment. Carlos Fiorilo is the third judge on the case since the young journalist’s death on 29 March 2008. Two others were removed from the case for “bureaucratic reasons”.

Reporters Without Borders expressed astonishment that the judge could have “more urgent” cases than that of a murder and said it shared the anxiety of Samuel Lima, legal advisor to the mayor of Pucarani, who said “It is deplorable that we have to adjourn the trial when it is essential to shed light on the circumstances of the death of our friend Carlos Quispe Quispe”.

18.06 - Trial opens of alleged killers of journalist Carlos Quispe Quispe

The trial opened on 18 June of the alleged killers of Carlos Quispe Quispe, a journalist on Radio Municipal Pucarani, who died in the city of the same name in La Paz department, western Bolivia on 29 March after being beaten up by opponents of the mayor.

The six defendants, charged with “homicide” and “membership of a criminal gang”, were all in court for the opening. Four municipal councillors - Edwin Huampo Espinoza, Basilio Poma Poma, Rufina Zerna Flores and Nicolaza Cruz Quispe - and Julio Quisberth Quispe and Efraín Ticonipa, two leaders of the Pucarani municipal ‘vigilance committee’, a body that oversees council activities. The parents of the murder victim and Jorge Borda, legal advisor to the mayor, who is a civil party in the case, will all be giving evidence. According to statements made by Borda to Reporters Without Borders, the journalist was beaten up by members of the vigilance committee, incited by the accused municipal councillors.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the opening of the trial as a first step in the fight against impunity and hopes that the court in Pucarani will determine the individual and collective responsibilities in the journalist’s murder.

08.04 - Young journalist dies of injuries two days after attack on municipal radio station

Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Carlos Quispe Quispe, 31, a journalist working for a municipal radio station in Pucarani, a town 50 km outside La Paz, died on 29 March from the injuries he received two days earlier during an attack on the station, located within the municipal government compound, by opponents of the mayor.

“Quispe is the first journalist to lose his life to the extreme political tension to which both state and privately-owned media - pro-government and pro-opposition - are now hostage,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The attack on Radio Municipal Pucarani that resulted in Quispe’s death was followed by attacks on two state-owned media in Sucre by radical groups hostile to the government.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We hope that an investigation will quickly shed light on the circumstances of this tragedy, which should - now more than ever - persuade politicians to rein in their supporters in order to avoid chaos. This concerns above all certain opposition sectors whose intransigence is assuming dangerous proportions.”

The attack took place as the Pucarani Surveillance Committee, a body with the job of monitoring the municipal government, was holding a meeting in La Paz with the locality’s community leaders to discuss the possibility of removing Pucarani mayor Alejandro Mamani, a member of the ruling Movement to Socialism (MAS), from office. The meeting took place in Mamani’s absence but leading government supporters and opponents from Pucarani attended.

A group of demonstrators in Pucarani took advantage of the fact that hardly anyone was present in the municipal government compound to attack the Radio Municipal Pucarani studios.

“They wrecked the radio station, where Carlos Quispe was,” municipal councillor José Guillermo Castillo told Reporters Without Borders. “They beat him very badly, inflicting serious injuries. Believing him to be dead, they fled as soon as the police arrived.” Quispe was initially taken to a hospital in Pucarani, but was transferred later the same day to La Paz because of the gravity of his condition. He died two days later and was buried there on 31 March.

The victim’s brother, Juan Quispe, told Reporters Without Borders: “We request respect for our mourning. We count on the municipal government to monitor the investigation of this case.

The Association of Journalists of La Paz (APLP) paid tribute to “an innocent victim of political in-fighting for the control of a town hall.” President Evo Morales’ new spokesman, Iván Canelas, who is himself a journalist, told Reporters Without Borders he would follow the case from the capital.

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