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Tax audit of news media appears politically motivated, says IAPA

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 7 December 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA protests to Bolivia over tax audit of media

MIAMI, Florida (December 7, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed surprise and protested the Bolivian government's sudden announcement of a tax audit of news media in the South American country, saying the action "could be interpreted as a reprisal" meant to silence press criticism in the country's current tense political climate.

IAPA was responding to an announcement by the president of Bolivia's National Tax Service, Marlene Ardaya, that she would conduct an audit of the nation's print and online media and telecommunications companies to determine if they are paying their due taxes. She denied the move was politically motivated.

IAPA President Earl Maucker and the chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, issued a joint statement declaring that "it is most striking that this announcement comes just at a time when the media are acting as observers and monitors and at the same time providing the people an outlet to express their opinions in the middle of a politically tense situation, and just when freedom of the press most needs protection as the cornerstone of democracy."

Maucker, senior vice president and editor of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, newspaper Sun-Sentinel, added, "It should be made abundantly clear that no one is asking for any privileges for the news media, as payment of taxes is a duty of everyone in a nation, but what we do say is that this action would seem to be an attempt to buy silence, or at least put a gag on criticism."

Marroquín, editor of Prensa Libre newspaper in Guatemala City, Guatemala, declared, "the government must guarantee freedom of the press," a reference to numerous recent incidents of violence unleashed against news media and individual journalists. The IAPA was particularly concerned at actions against journalists working for both publicly and privately-owned media in the Bolivian city of Sucre while they cover events surrounding the country's constituent assembly.

At its General Assembly, held in Miami in October, the IAPA condemned attacks on journalists and media outlets citing such cases as the seizure of Cochabamba television station Canal 20's broadcast equipment and the beating of reporters from the newspaper El Mundo, television stations Red Uno and Canal 7 and the Spanish news agency EFE in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

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