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Media workers targeted in midst of social and political crisis

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has denounced threats against journalists covering Bolivia's two-week-old social and political crisis. Staff at Radio Fides radio station and Canal 2 and Canal 39 television stations received anonymous threatening telephone calls on 13 October 2003. Personnel at Pachamama, Celestial and Erbol radio stations were also threatened two days earlier.

"We call on the government to do all it can to ensure that the media can continue to do their job," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "Journalists must be allowed to cover the crisis in complete freedom and to disseminate the news as they see fit."

Pachamama and Celestial radio stations, based in the town of El Alto, near the capital, La Paz, and the other stations, located in La Paz itself, were warned that "something would happen to them" and told to "be careful" and to "cease broadcasting." Other callers warned that the stations would be bombed. On 13 October, demonstrators tried to throw stones at the studios of Radio Fides, which is owned by the Catholic Church, but were stopped by police.

Seven journalists at the state-run television station resigned on 12 October, protesting what they said was the management's "distortion" of the news and "lying by omission." They accused the government of intervening to stop news about the clashes between demonstrators and security forces in El Alto from being broadcast. They also said they had been threatened following the station's news broadcasts.

Juan Yupanqui, of the daily "El Diario", was beaten up by special security police on 7 October as he followed demonstrators walking from El Alto to La Paz. The demonstrators were tear-gassed and attacked by police, who were barring their way.

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