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Journalists harassed, assaulted by civic leaders in Tarija and by protesting teacher on the Cochabamba-La Paz highway

(IPYS/IFEX) - IPYS is concerned by two recent cases of harassment and assault against journalists performing their professional duties.

The first incident took place on 5 August 2008 in the town of Tarija, in southern Bolivia when civic leaders of that department threatened personnel of the state-run Televisión Boliviana as they conducted their work in the town's airport, according to the station's press director, Reynaldo Vargas.

Several journalists were at the airport awaiting the arrival of the presidents of Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela when a number of local political leaders who oppose the national government identified journalist Heidy Campos and her camera operator as working for the state-run television station. The local politicians threatened them and prevented them from filming.

The visit of the presidents was suspended due to the high political tension prevailing in the town and the lack of adequate security.

In a separate incident, also on 5 August, Red Boliviana ATB journalist Alejandro Mendoza and camera operator Wilson Menchaca were assaulted and pelted with stones by a teacher participating in a blockade of the Cochabamba-La Paz highway

Mendoza told the Bolivian Nation Press Association (Asociación Nacional de la Prensa, ANP) that the journalists had gone to the blockade to interview the teachers, who were protesting to pressure the government to approve a pension law.

Among those they interviewed, the journalists found a group of children who complained about the teachers' strike. A teacher, who did not identify himself, overheard these critical interviews and charged the journalists, breaking their camera and microphone in the process. The teacher then threw stones at the reporters to prevent them from continuing their coverage.

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