There was surprisingly little violence against the press during yesterday’s recall referendum on the mandates of President Evo Morales and eight regional governors although there was a series of physical attacks on journalists during the preceding days.
“We are relieved by the relative calm in which yesterday’s voting took place, especially as the political tension had led us to fear the worst,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We nonetheless condemn the attacks on journalists and news media that took place in the run-up to the referendum.”
A policeman threw tear gas at Silvia Gómez of privately-owned television station PAT as she was covering a clash between supporters of the opposition Santa Cruz Youth Movement and the ruling Movement to Socialism (MAS) on 1 August.
Several journalists including Carlos Hugo Vaca of the news agency Reuters were insulted and jeered by government supporters while covering a MAS motorcade in Santa Cruz on 3 August. Vaca was beaten and accused of links with the region’s business leaders.
Privately-owned TV station Unitel-Oruro was forced to suspend broadcasting for 24 hours after its premises were attacked by students from a state university on 5 August. Station chief Juan Carlos Soria said the attack was almost certainly linked to the fact that it is owned by a media group that has its headquarters in Santa Cruz, an opposition stronghold.
Dehymar Antezana of La Patria was thrown to the ground and kicked repeatedly by miners in Oruro on 5 August when he photographed them throwing stones at a military convoy bound for Cochabamba. He had to go to a hospital for treatment to his injuries.
Reporter Edwin Flores of privately-owned Radio Patujú, cameraman Adalberto Eguëz of Canal 11 Televisión Universitaria and freelancer Rubén Villán were roughed up in Trinidad on 6 August while covering a visit by President Morales at the end of his referendum campaign. Flores was insulted and badly beaten by members of the Trinidad Civic Committee.
Mili Saravia and Maria Luz Arce of pro-government radio Patria Nueva were attacked while covering voting yesterday in two schools in Tarija. When Saravia asked about the use of parallel voter lists, several people threw stones at her, especially a man identified only as Gutiérrez, who was reportedly a member of the town’s Civic Committee. Arce was attacked by the staff of the San Roque school polling station, who wanted to know which news media she was taking photos for. They then reported her to the police.