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Two media outlets bombed in Tarija and Potosí amid political tensions; reporters assaulted by striking miners

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF condemns the bomb attacks perpetrated against the privately-owned television station Canal 4-Unitel in Yacuiba, Tarija department, southern Bolivia, and against the radio station Radio Kollasuyo in Potosí, in the department of the same name in the country's southwest.

Political and media polarisation that is undermining the country was behind both attacks, which caused severe damage in both cases and left two staff people injured in Potosí, RSF said. The Tarija blast took place against the background of an autonomy referendum on 22 June 2008.

Two people in a car threw a dynamite bundle into the entrance of Canal 4-Unitel in Yacuiba at dawn on 21 June, badly damaging the main door and windows, but causing no injuries.

Judicial authorities blamed elements within the army and a group of students from the People's University of Santa Cruz - supporters of President Evo Morales - who had come to the gas-rich province for the referendum campaign. Around 20 arrests have been made in connection with the attack.

The director of the television station in Yacuiba, Armando Reyes, voiced his shock and dismay to RSF. "We try to maintain balance in our programmes; we always aim to serve the public and especially those in most need," he said.

The previous morning, an explosion destroyed the door and façade of the main studios of Radio Kollasuyo. The station director, Epifanio Moscoso, said two staff were injured in the blast: Teofila Taquichiri lost hearing in one ear and Silvia Gutiérrez sustained a stomach injury from fragments of flying wood.

The radio station had to interrupt its programming later the same day when a fire ravaged the tax offices housed in an adjoining building. Both incidents occurred as a strike was held by miners in the centre of Potosí; their protest degenerated into violence and the looting of several public buildings.

In a separate incident, four journalists were assaulted by striking miners. José Luis Velásquez Pareja of Radio Kollasuyo, Roger Vera of 18-Católica Televisión, Juan Carlos Paco, press spokesman for the department of health services, and Jannet Cortez, of Radio ACLO-Potosí.

"Though less serious than those that took place in Santa Cruz on 4 May and in the departments of Beni and Pando on 1 June, these attacks against the media in the context of the autonomy referendum in Tarija department hardly give rise to optimism, with another referendum scheduled for the whole country on 10 August," RSF said.

"As we have urged previously, the entire political class must reach an agreement to protect fundamental freedoms, must take steps to ensure that the radical groups on each side of the political split are condemned by the major political parties, and, finally, they must ensure that safety guarantees are provided to the press during the 10 August referendum," the organisation added.

For further information on referendum-related violence in Santa Cruz, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93722

For further information on referendum-related violence in Beni and Pando, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94196

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