|The Bolivian press is vibrant and independent, despite the country's
poverty and low literacy rate. After a long battle, journalists succeeded
in July in killing amendments to the press law which would have allowed judges
to compel journalists to reveal their sources. While the 1925 press law defines
defamation as a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison
(the sentence can be doubled if the official in question is the president,
vice president, or a minister), there were no prosecutions in 1998. Journalists
say the criminal defamation statutes are not a hindrance to their work because
the special tribunals established under the press law to try journalists
for offenses related to their profession generally rule in favor of the
journalists. CPJ, however, opposes all such special tribunals for journalists
because they can be -- and generally are -- used to persecute rather than
protect the press.
Although the Asociación de Periodistas de La Paz has petitioned the
government to enforce a law limiting the practice of journalism to those
who have university degrees, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in
Costa Rica ruled in 1985 that laws requiring the mandatory licensing of
journalists violate the American Convention on Human Rights.
While physical attacks against the press are rare, journalists were roughed
up in two separate incidents in the city of Santa Cruz. After protests by
local press groups, the police commander in Santa Cruz was dismissed and
President Hugo Banzer publicly apologized.