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Press continues to come under attack

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 15 October 2003, the Bolivian Press Workers Federation (Federación de Trabajadores de la Prensa de Bolivia) condemned the army for firing at two journalists while they were covering the violent repression of a demonstration by miners in Patacamaya municipality. The miners were marching towards the city of La Paz to demand President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada's resignation.

Two people were killed as a result of the army's actions. Fourteen others were injured, four of whom were not taking part in the protest, according to local residents.

Journalist Hugo Manuel Mejía, a reporter for Radio "Aroma de Comunicación", was shot in the left foot, while he was inside his home. He was treated at the local hospital and, according to the medical reports, was not seriously injured.

Carlos Colque, a correspondent in Patacamaya for the Educación Radiofónica de Bolivia (ERBOL) radio network, was also attacked. The journalist was shot in the back with a rubber bullet but was not seriously injured. Minutes before, he had been threatened by a lieutenant colonel, who was in command of the soldiers.

In addition, the Bolpres news agency reported that "two masked individuals blew up the transmission equipment of Canal 13 Televisión Universitaria de La Paz television station and Radio Pío XII radio station, located on San Felipe hill. At approximately 6:00 p.m. (local time) on 15 October, the assailants reportedly "tied up the security guard, Efraín Mamani, and then detonated two explosives".

The security guard told the daily "La Patria de Oruro" that one of the unidentified individuals was wearing boots and was presumably a soldier or police officer. "They were experts at handling explosives. The premises of nearby media outlets escaped undamaged. Not even a window was broken," Mamani said.

Canal 36-Cadena A television station director Amalia Pando also reported that the station has "received threats," in the sense that they are being accused of instigating the violence. "We received telephone calls from government authorities who asked us to stop broadcasting images of the conflict and instead air music programmes, saying that, if we did not do this, we would be promoting the killings," Pando said. Fearing that the station would be closed, a group of youths went to the station's studios at 6:00 p.m. on 15 October to demonstrate their support.

At various locations in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, demonstrators pursued and tried to assault journalists and camera operators working for the Asociación de Teledifusoras de Bolivia, (ATB), Periodistas Asociados de Televisión (PAT), Radio Televisión Popular (RTP) and Bolivisión networks. An RTP camera operator, who barely managed to reach the media outlet's van in time, was able to film his pursuers, who were protesting against the Bolivian press.

In a document addressed to the Bolivian government and international freedom of expression organisations, the Bolivian Press Workers Federation said the press was facing a crisis situation and condemned "the criminal acts of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada's government and his political supporters."

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