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President accused of avoiding private media, only providing information to state-owned television station; vice minister tries to intimidate journalist

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 12 December 2008, President Evo Morales avoided speaking to private media outlets during an official event at the National Police Academy (Academia Nacional de Policías, ANAPOL) in La Paz. According to reporters, the president's spokespersons made them believe that Morales would hold a press conference in a certain hall, when in fact he was providing information to the state-owned television station in a different room.

When they realised what was going on, the reporters managed to locate the president, who then made a quick exit.

Morales had threatened not to provide any information to journalists the day before because, according to him, he had "other mechanisms at his disposal through which to inform (the public) about his government's achievements." He said that the press lies and that only 10% of reporters had any dignity.

One of the reporters told the National Press Association (Asociación Nacional de la Prensa, ANP) that a Government Palace official told him he could access the information by requesting a copy from the state-owned television station.

In a separate incident, on 10 December, the Vice-Minister for Coordination with Social Organisations, Sacha Llorenti, tried to intimidate Nancy Vacaflor, a reporter for the Red Erbol radio network, warning her that he would speak with the network's director because he was uncomfortable with a question Vacaflor had posed to him.

According to the reporter, the incident took place during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in La Paz. The journalist asked Llorenti "if the government would again be the source of humiliation such as that which took place the previous night at the Government Palace when President Evo Morales publicly rebuked a reporter from the newspaper 'La Prensa'". According to the president, one of the reports the newspaper published "was not true."

According to Red Erbol, after the interview Llorenti approached the journalist to ask her who she worked for. He then issued his warning.

Llorenti denied the accusation, saying that the journalist's question was biased, which seemed unethical to him.

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