An Oruro-based community radio station owned by a peasant union has become the third local radio station to be the target of a dynamite attack in a major a wave of strikes and protests in the past two weeks. The explosive charge set off yesterday morning outside Radioemisoras Bolivia 1.450 Khz AM destroyed its antenna.
“We have had to suspend our broadcasts but we hope to be back on the air quite quickly,” Reporters Without Borders was told by Norka Herrera, one of the station’s eight journalists. Station manager Félix Condori said they had previously received threatening phone calls criticizing their reporting.
The wave of labour unrest took a disturbing turn when the police launched a mutiny to demand more pay and journalists in several cities became the targets of their anger. Media sources said Herrera is one of three journalists who police say have been “put on file.” The other two are Juan Mejía, a reporter for the privately-owned newspaper La Razón, and Radio Jacinto Rodríguez journalist José Luis Jaimes.
“Today’s announcement that the government has reached an agreement with the striking policemen is reassuring,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The six-day showdown recalled the police mutiny that shook Ecuador to its foundations on 30 September 2010, when journalists from state, privately-owned and community media were the victims of police violence and attempts to prevent them reporting what was happening.
“While we welcome this agreement, we continue to be concerned about all the other strikes and protests currently taking place, which may endanger civil liberties and the freedom to report news and information. We call for justice to be rendered to Radioemisoras Bolivia and the journalists who have been attacked in recent days.”
As well as the attack with explosives on Radioemisoras Bolivia, attacks on individual journalists took place during the police mutiny. Policemen staging a protest in La Paz on 22 June grabbed Armando Quispe of the Oxígeno magazine and website, took his camera and forced him to leave although he had identified himself as a journalist. He has still not recovered his camera.
Miguel Zambrana, a journalist currently working for the vice-president’s press office, was badly beaten by uniformed police officers wearing ski masks on 25 June in La Paz although he was displaying his press card. His assailants accused him of being an “infiltrator.”
Reporters Without Borders also learned that a crew working for Televisión Boliviana, the main state-owned TV station, was the target of an attack on 23 June at Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz, which was being occupied by protesting police officers. The TV crew had to flee when a large crowd of protesters accused them of “minimizing police demands.”