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University television station suspends broadcasting after receiving threats; Reuters reporter assaulted by president's supporters

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 1 August 2008, Canal 13 Televisión Universitaria, a media outlet belonging to the San Francisco Xavier University in the city of Sucre, in southern Bolivia, suspended broadcasting after student leaders threatened to occupy the station. The students accuse the television station of being biased towards a group of teachers who are demanding a pay raise and have gone on an indefinite strike because of the students' refusal to discuss their demands at University Council meetings.

On 31 July, the students placed a chain and a padlock on the station's door as a warning. Station staff subsequently evacuated the premises and suspended broadcasting.

The next day, station director Róger González ordered the staff to cut through the chain and return to work. However, university authorities ordered the cancellation of all broadcasts after the students issued additional threats.

The students are calling for the resignation of the station's director, whom they accuse of being responsible for the biased reporting. González denied the accusation and condemned the threats as an attack on press freedom.

In a separate incident, on 3 August, photographer Carlos Hugo Vaca, of the international news agency Reuters, was assaulted by a group of supporters of the government party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) in the city of Santa Cruz, eastern Bolivia.

The incident occurred while Vaca was covering a MAS political march that promoted the Yes vote in support of President Evo Morales in the upcoming 10 August recall referendum.

The photographer told the National Press Association (Asociación Nacional de la Prensa, ANP) that a demonstrator approached him to let the air out of the tires on his motorcycle and thus prevent him from following the march.

Afterwards, four unidentified men hit him in the arms, accusing him of favoring Santa Cruz's powerful groups and opposition politicians, who are accused by the governing party of attempting to overthrow Morales.

Reporter Ricardo Montero, of "El Deber" newspaper, told the ANP that during the same march other journalists were threatened and insulted by the president's supporters.

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