Flag_of_BoliviaPopulation. 10,461,053

Land. 418,683 square miles (1,098,580 square kilometers)

Per capita income. $2,514

President. Juan Evo Morales Ayma


A bill called the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information, under debate in Parliament, threatens to limit the freedom of expression and access to information in Bolivia.

Sept. 4, 2013 Bolivian journalists in five major cities – Sucre, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Oruro – staged protests against the bill. The journalists took issue with Articles 42 and 43, which would give government officials broad authority to withhold information from the public.

Javier Cosulich, international editor of Agencie Noticies Fides, said that the so called transparency bill threatens the government employees who release the information, not the journalists.

“For a long time there wasn’t much limitation on access to information. You could talk with government employees about an instance of corruption, and they would talk” Cosulich said.

“This new transparency law, as it is called, is starting to cut off these options, not to sanction journalists but to sanction the government employees who give information without approval from the bosses.”

Cosulich said that penalties for government employees who talk to the press without authorization could include prison time, if the new law is passed.

The government of President Evo Morales seeks to further regulate media in Bolivia, where the state already has major powers over media, Cosulich said.

Television stations must renew their licenses periodically, which forces television news stations to pander to public officials around the time of license renewals. Newspapers, which do not require licenses, enjoy a greater editorial independence, Cosulich said.

In 2009 Morales launched a state-run newspaper, Cambio, and a state-run television station, Channel 7.

Relationship counseling

Cosulich said that the biggest challenge to journalists is the advesarial relationship between the president and the media.

During an August interview with television journalist Ismael Cala, Morales’s dislike for the media was on full display (see YouTube video above). The president used his 20-minutes in front of an international audience – which he demanded be aired unedited – to insult Cala and CÑN – the spanish language new network owned by CNN – for contributing to imperialism.

At press conferences, Morales is uncooperative with journalists, Cosulich said.

“There is a tendency to self-censor and many journalists simply choose not to complicate things,” Cosulich said.

Although relationships between the press and heads of state is always delicate, Bolivia’s case is extraordinarily severe, Cosulich said.

“It is always difficult but there should be clear rules for both sides,” Cosulich said. “Here there are not.”

Check out what the newstramp has covered so far in Bolivia:

The five members of the Comite Civico, in Potosí, Bolivia asked that their photos not appear in this media | by brandon c janes iv

Eyes open, mouth closed: Bolivia’s history of fear and silence

Few Bolivians are willing to comment for Newstramp on politics in this country, including the editor of El Potosí, one of the countries most important newspapers. This article explains why this country is so hesitant to talk to reporters about politics.

Jhonny Llally Huata, president of the Potosí's Comité Cívico, holds up the flag of the Department of Potosí in his office in Potosí | photo by brandon c janes iv

Bolivia playing dead: when the only power is the power to do nothing

During a 24-hour road block in Potosí, Newstramp got a chance to sit down with Jhonny Llally Huata, president of Potosí’s Comité Civico, to better understand the universal strike method of communication.

Three miners of the 27 de Marzo Mining Cooperative in Potosí, Bolivia argue inside of one of the mining camp huts | photo by brandon c janes iv

VIDEO: Exploiting Bolivia – part 1 – “the riches that made us poor”

Bolivia’s most famous mining town, Potosí, is in its final years. Once the richest city in the world during Spanish occupation, Potosí now it is one of South America’s poorest.

"Here ends your service to the mining community," reads the sign painted on the wall of the mausoleum reserved for one of the 33 mining cooperatives in Potosí, Bolivia. The other wall reads, "Silence! here rest the men who left their lungs in the mines." | photo by brandon c janes iv

 Exploiting Bolivia – part 2 – sitting with the dead

The wake of a mining family matriarch leads Newstramp into a discovery of the spiritual system by which the community of Potosí – which is closely tied to one of the most dangerous professions on earth – deals with death.

The newsroom at El Deber newspaper in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia | photo by brandon c janes iv

 Slaying Goliath – investigative reporting at the center of Bolivia’s drug trade

Bolivia’s nascent investigative reporting tradition seems to have begun in the most dangerous city for a reporter, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which, in recent years, has become the center of Bolivia’s illegal drug trade.


The sign in front of Radio Sobernania, the voice of Bolivia´s Cocalero movement (as the sign says), located in Chipiriri, Cochabamba Department photo by brandon c janes iv

Into the Chapare – dispatches from a Bolivian coca farm part 1

Searching for a view of the cocolero movement from the grass roots level brings newstramp to the farm of Marcelo Ramallo, a coca farmer and community leader in Bolivia’s Chapare jungle. The jungle region is known for producing coca leaf and has been a major front line in the War on Drugs for its role in cocaine production.


Marcelo Ramallo, president of the Senda Beher Cocalero Syndicate in the Chapare jungle of Cochabamba, Bolivia chews coca before returning to work on his coca farm / photo by brandon c janes iv

Into the Chapare part 2 – war stories

Having settled in a bit, newstramp gets some firsthand wisdom and tall tales from his new friend Marcelo Ramallo, who recounts the battles that took place on the coca farm during the drug war of the 1980s and 1990s.


Featured Image: Bolivian flag Wikipedia open source

Featured Image: Evo Morales wikepedia open source