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Radio stations on Brazilian border suspend broadcasting because of attacks on journalists; opponents of government accused of knocking down state-owned radio station antenna

(IPYS/IFEX) - Since 4 September 2008, at least four journalists linked to radio stations working in partnership with state-owned networks have been threatened and attacked in the city of Cobija, Pando department. The radio stations have suspended their broadcasting as a preventative measure. Pando lies on the Brazilian border in northern Bolivia, and, recently, violent confrontations have been taking place in the area between local farmers who support President Evo Morales's government and those who do not.

Radio Pando, the only station that carries a local news programme, suspended its broadcasting because of threats against its director, Juan Domingo Yanique. The threats have been made by groups who support the local authorities and oppose the central government.

Yanique, who is also a correspondent for the state-owned radio network Patria Nueva, told the National Journalists' Association (Asociación Nacional de Periodistas, ANP) that he feared for his life and decided to flee to La Paz because of the constant threats he was receiving from people with ties to the local government.

The journalist noted that since May he has been prevented from reporting on issues relating to the local government and from covering public demonstrations carried out by the city's Civic Committee.

On 5 September, Radio Digital journalist Humberto Lucana was assaulted in Cobija's airport by individuals who supposedly confused him with the owner of a radio station that supports the central government. Only one of Radio Digital's programmes carries editorial content.

On 6 September, the Bolivian Radiophonic Education (Educación Radiofónica de Bolivia, ERBOL) radio network suspended broadcasting by one of its member stations, Cobija's Radio Frontera, for three days due to concerns for the safety of the station's employees. In a press release, the radio station called on Cobija's authorities to provide protection for the station's reporters. The reporters are constantly harassed by Civic Committee members, who are supported by Pando's governor, Leopoldo Fernández.

The ANP attempted, without success, to contact government officials and members of Cobija's Civic Committee.

In a separate incident, Iván Maldonado, the director of the state-owned Patria Nueva radio network, told the ANP that early the morning of 4 September, the antenna of the state-owned Radio Rurrenabaque radio station was knocked down and its broadcasting cables cut by members of the Rurrenabaque Civic Committee, who oppose the national government. As a result, the station is unable to broadcast. "La Palabra" regional newspaper, however, has reported that the antenna was not knocked down, but rather fell because of strong winds. Rurrenabaque is located in the department of Beni, northeastern Bolivia.

Rural leaders and Patria Nueva correspondent Felipe Santos told the ANP that the people who operate the state-owned station are harassed by individuals and local officials who oppose the national government.

The ANP will continue to investigate these cases.

Updates alert on opposition attacks on state-owned media:

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