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Cameraman assaulted by opponents of national government; army officer, others detained for TV station bombing in Tarija

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 18 June 2008, Ernesto Rogríguez, a cameraman for Boliviana Television Canal 7, was beaten and harassed by a group of youths who oppose the government of President Evo Morales. The incident took place as the cameraman prepared to cover a visit by the president to the department of Tarija a few days prior to the holding of a public referendum there on a possible autonomy statute for the region.

According to the journalist, the youths arrived at the airport to protest the arrival of the president, who, in the end, decided not to carry through with his visit due to the hostile political climate in the region. When Rodríguez was identified as a cameraman for the state television station, the demonstrators harassed and assaulted him, and attempted to seize his video camera. Rogríguez suffered minor wounds.

One of the demonstrators said that they attacked the journalist because he works for a state-run television station that "does not report the truth".

In a separate incident, on 21 June, Canal 4 television station in Yacuiba, which rebroadcasts the Unitel television network's signal in the department of Tarija, was subjected to a dynamite attack against the front of its headquarters. After the attack, a member of the armed forces was detained a few blocks from the station's offices after his car crashed into a public transit vehicle.

The prosecutor assigned to the case, Diego Choque, identified the detained individual as Georgef Peter Nava Zurita, a second lieutenant in the army. Nava Zurita said he worked at the government headquarters and had participated in the attack on Canal 4. Two 9 mm pistols, a machine gun, a fuse for dynamite, money and official identification papers were found in his car. Approximately 20 people were subsequently detained as part of the investigation and, although Choque abstained from confirming a link between those detained and the government, it is known that they belong to organisations that support the ruling party.

Presidency Minister Ramon Quintana denied that Nava Zurita was part of the presidential security force and said that he would request a report from senior military personnel to clarify his position.

On 22 June, Tarija held a referendum on a possible autonomy statue for the department. The referendum was declared illegal by the central government and the National Electoral Court.

Updates the Canal 4 case:

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