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Bolivian city pulls official advertising after paper publishes video of mayor

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemns the suspension of official advertising, and the intimidation campaign against the Bolivian newspaper El Deber by the Santa Cruz de la Sierra municipal government in apparent reprisal for the broadcast of a video in which the municipality's mayor showed disrespect for a female television reporter during a public ceremony.

El Deber denounced the campaign of intimidation accompanied by total stoppage of official advertising, which occurred after the airing of a video on its Web site in which the city mayor, Percy Fernández Áñez, is placing his hand on the leg of a female reporter sitting beside him.

The UNO network reporter, Mercedes Guzmán, reacted by forcefully removing the mayor's hand and then, in response to one of her questions, he replied with a double entendre. Given the controversy and criticism that Fernández Áñez's actions gave rise to, he publicly apologized in a video sent to local television stations.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee of Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, condemned “the harassment of the newspaper and the reprisals taken by the local government against the publication which shows, without any doubt, an inappropriate and disrespectful attitude of a public official towards a woman.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, cited Principles 4, 7, and 10 of the Declaration of Chapultepec, which establish that pressures upon news media restrict freedom of expression and of the press; the placement or suspension of official advertising should not be applied to reward or punish media or journalists, and no media outlet or journalist should be punished for disseminating the truth or making criticism or denunciations of those in power.

According to Bolivia's National Press Association (ANP) supporters of the mayor and social organizations on the side of his administration also staged demonstrations against the newspaper to protest the information it had published “which has given rise to verbal threats by officials and political persons close to the mayor against El Deber.”

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