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Editor still unable to return to Bolivia after six months in exile

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 18 November 2016.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Bolivian authorities to restore newspaper editor Wilson García Mérida's fundamental rights and allow him to return home from Brazil, to which he fled six months ago to escape a judicial travesty.

The editor of the Sol de Pando newspaper and an outspoken editorial writer, Wilson García Mérida was summoned before a prosecutor on 10 May after being accused of sedition by presidency minister Juan Ramón Quintana for no valid reason.

García's lawyer tried to get the summons postponed and to find out exactly what accusations Quintana was making against his client. But to no avail. To escape this denial of justice, García fled to Brazil and is still there. There has been a warrant for his arrest since 16 May.

The sedition accusation was made after García reported the existence of a crime ring specializing in prostitution and human trafficking between Bolivia and Brazil. He claimed that Quintana himself was involved.

“We call on the Bolivian judicial authorities to urgently rescind the warrant for Wilson García Mérida's arrest,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF's America's desk.

“Juan Ramón Quintana must also explain the reasons for this sedition charge and produce evidence to support it. If he cannot, the authorities must drop the charge, which has all the hallmarks of one more in a long list of government manoeuvres designed to reduce the opposition media to silence.”

In recent months, RSF has been in contact with García, who wants above all to return to Bolivia and to be reunited with his family. The lawyers he contacted in La Paz told him that they had been harassed and subjected to intimidation attempts aimed at deterring them from handling his case.

From his temporary base in northern Brazil, García is nonetheless now trying to have the arrest warrant withdrawn and to file a submission to Bolivia's constitutional court demonstrating that Quintana's accusations are undermining Bolivia's democracy and constitution.

This is not his first run-in with the government. In 2011, Quintana tried to deprive Sol de Pando of income from state advertising. In 2012, he ordered the seizure of 2,000 copies of the Sol de Pando and broke up his network of newspaper distributors in the northern city of Cobija.

Bolivia is ranked 97th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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