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Bolivian journalist persecuted over criticism of the government

The intimidation and persecution of journalist Marianela Montenegro by Bolivian authorities has been condemned by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which called for a prompt investigation into her complaints and guarantees for her safety and that of her family.

During a visit to the IAPA offices on November 8, Montenegro, a journalist and owner of Canal 33 television in Cochabamba reported that she has been harassed and threatened and the offices of her channel have been broken into on two occasions.

She hosts the “Aló Marianela” (Hello, Marianela) program of debates and criticism against the government. In late October she also presented her complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C.

On November 20, 2012 police and officials of the Telecommunications and Transport Regulatory and Social Control Authority (ATT) violently raided the television station and her home – located in the same building – for alleged violations of the agency's rules. The raid was captured on video by a security camera (watch the footage below).

Montenegro, who provided to the IAPA a number of documents concerning her reports, also said that advertising contracts had been withdrawn in order to suffocate her financially, four criminal suits had been filed, the channel's equipment had been confiscated, and she had been threatened with the cancellation of her broadcast license. She said all this was in reaction to her criticism towards the ruling party.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “We condemn the intimidation campaign against journalists which seems to send the message that in order to be safe, it is better to keep quiet; this is a violation of freedom of the press and of expression.”

The IAPA recently condemned threats of reprisals from municipal authorities in Santa Cruz de la Sierra against the newspaper El Deber and one of its journalists.

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said that the government is engaging in a strategy of suffocation through attacks on media and journalists, among other actions, through discrimination with official advertising, special taxes and the purchase of independent media through third parties, as was laid out in Bolivia's report presented at the IAPA's General Assembly last month.

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