Reporters Without Borders condemns the mistreatment that two documentary filmmakers - Tanimbu Estremadoiro and her Argentine colleague Fernando Cola - received from residents of Cuevo, in the eastern department of Santa Cruz, on 13 April.
They were kidnapped and subjected to physical violence during a clash between government representatives and local landowners in a region where much of the population supports calls for autonomy and is fiercely opposed to the government in La Paz.
“All those trying to settle scores by attacking the press should have learned from the death of Carlos Quispe on 29 March as a result of an attack on Radio Municipal Pucarani (see 8 April release),” Reporters Without Borders said. “The way Fernando Cola and Tanimbu Estremadoiro were treated shows that the current political and social conflicts continue to expose journalists to serious risks.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We hope that justice will be quickly rendered in this case and that the political class, especially those in the regions that are pressing for autonomy, will undertake to ensure respect for press freedom.”
Cola and Estremadoiro, who are members of the Centre for Legal Studies and Social Investigation (CEJIS) and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, a Danish NGO, are making a documentary about land conflicts in Bolivia. On 13 April, they were accompanying a government delegation that is in charge of distributing land to Guarani indigenous peasants.
A group of local landowners opposed to agrarian reform blocked the delegation’s access to Cuevo, a locality near the city of Santa Cruz. When the confrontation turned violent, Cola was captured. He was kicked repeatedly, stones were thrown at him and his camera was smashed. He finally escaped from his assailants and found refuge in the home of a local resident where soldiers rescued him the next day.
Estremadoiro, who is of Guarani origin, was meanwhile seized, threatened with death, and forcibly led to the central square in Cuevo. She told Radio Erbol that her captors tied her to a post in the square in the rain for about an hour, and thereafter held her captive for the rest of the night. Soldiers rescued her the next morning and took her to a nearby barracks. She was reunited with Cola on 15 April in the neighbouring village of Camiri.