Third Radio Station Attacked Due To Labor Unrest In Bolivia

Wednesday June 27 Reporters Without Borders reported the antenna for Radioemisoras Bolivia 1.450 Khz AM was dynamited and the community radio station based in Oruro was knocked off the air.

“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.

While no one appears to have been injured in the attack, RWP’s article continues, 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.”

The website CPJ also reported, Two other radio stations were damaged by dynamite blasts on June 14, according to news reports. Radio Vanguardia, affiliated with miners employed by the state mining company, and Radio Cumbre, affiliated with independent miners belonging to a local cooperative, are both located in the mining town of Colquiri. Miners from the two groups have clashed this month over control of the town’s largest zinc and tin mine and are rumored to have targeted each other’s radio stations, Juan Leon, executive director of the Bolivian Association of Journalists, told CPJ.

No one was injured in the blasts at the stations, news reports said.

Silvano Cartagena, a journalist at Radio Vanguardia, told CPJ that he was at the station during the attack, and the station’s roof, antenna, consoles, and auditorium were damaged. He said the station would remain off the air until new equipment could be purchased.

Albino García, president of the local mining cooperative, told CPJ that the dynamite blasts at Radio Cumbre destroyed the station’s broadcasting booth, computers, and antenna. He said he did not know when the station would resume broadcasting.

Bolivian radio stations have been targeted in the past. In November, a Bolivian TV channel and its sister radio station were vandalized and forced off the air by supporters of a local mayor. Violence against the press in Bolivia has lessened in recent years after a series of bloody attacks in 2008 during a period of intense political tension.