July 27, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Radio reporter Juan Carlos Paco held arbitrarily after covering protest

Update of July 30th of 2015: Juan Carlos Paco was released On the 29th of July, after seven days in jail, the journalist Juan Carlos Paco was eventually released by the Bolivian authorities. RWB is pleased to welcome this news, and remains alert to the follow-up of the investigations and the treatment of the journalist. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediately release of Juan Carlos Paco, a journalist with Radio Líder FM 107.1 who was arrested during a demonstration in La Paz on 22 July by protesters from the southern city of Potosí. Paco was covering the demonstration on behalf of the Federation of Potosí Press Workers when clashes broke out between police and protesters, some of whom detonated explosives. It was organized by the Potosí Civic Committee (COMCIPO) and was part of a two-week-old regional protest movement. A criminal court in La Paz ruled on 24 July that Paco and two detained COMCIPO leaders will be tried on charges of disrupting public order and possessing explosives, and that they will remain in detention for as long as required by the investigation, which could last several months. Nonetheless, the prosecution presented no evidence that Paco was involved in the violence and the judge acknowledged having received documents certifying that he was acting as a reporter at the time of his arrest. They were deemed insufficient as grounds for ordering the release of Paco, who was also accused of “overstepping the ethical limits of his profession” and “lacking impartiality.” “We call for the immediate release of Juan Carlos Paco, who was just doing his job as a journalist at the time of his arrest,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. “We also call on the Bolivian government and judicial system not to criminalize journalists’ work. Paco’s pre-trial detention is not justified in the absence of a serious investigation by the prosecutor’s office and in the absence of evidence that he participated in acts of violence.” The Confederation of Bolivian Press Workers, the Office of the Ombudsman and other entities have expressed their inability to understand his arrest and have called for his release. Another journalist, Carlos Quisberth of the newspaper El Diario, was arrested in March while investigating a baby’s death at a state centre for minors in La Paz, and was held for four days on a charge of “obstructing justice.” Although judges are quick to arrest journalists arbitrarily, the judicial system is extremely slow to investigate physical attacks or murders of journalists. The failure to solve the disappearance in January 2014 of Cristian Osvaldo Mariscal Calvimontes, a journalist with Red Plus TV in the southern city of Tarija, is typical of the lack of importance attached to cases involving media personnel. Bolivia is ranked 94th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, published in February.