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BOLIVIAN PRESS IS FREE, BUT HAMPERED BY PRESIDENT’S CRITICISM, CPJ FINDS

Despite a relatively open press climate, Bolivian President Evo Morales is too "thin-skinned" and is making reporters' working conditions increasingly difficult, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found on a recent week-long mission to the country.

"The administration of President Morales believes that any criticism is part of a conspiracy. There is freedom of expression in Bolivia, but the President's constant verbal attacks are sending some worrying signals," Pedro Rivero Jordán, executive director of the Santa Cruz-based daily "El Deber" and president of the Bolivian National Association of the Press, told CPJ.

Journalists acknowledge that they are not persecuted by the authorities but they say that the constant barrage of criticism of the press makes covering events such as street protests difficult. In January, almost a dozen journalists, photographers and cameramen were attacked by pro-Morales demonstrators in the central city of Cochabamba.

Meanwhile, Morales, while pledging to respect and promote press freedom, accused the media of bias against his administration. "The capitalist system is using the media against the government," Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader, told CPJ. "Journalists sympathise with me but the media owners are aligned in a campaign against my government."

The delegation met with Morales, Vice President Álvaro García Linera and senior government officials, journalists, editors, media executives, and human rights activists in the capital La Paz and the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

CPJ will publish the full report on press conditions in Bolivia shortly.

Visit these links:
- CPJ on mission: http://tinyurl.com/38ndpa
- CPJ on Cochabamba attacks: http://tinyurl.com/3xa7dh
(12 June 2007)

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