BOLIVIA: Reporter attacked while covering protests

JANUARY 12, 2007

Wilson Mencacha, ATB

Unidentified assailants attacked Mencacha, a cameraman for the La Paz-based television station ATB, while he was covering clashes between government supporters and antigovernment demonstrators in the central city of Cochabamba, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) southeast of La Paz.

Thousands of demonstrators—including members of the ruling leftist party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), labor unions, and indigenous groups—took to the streets on January 8 to seek the ouster of provincial Gov. Manfred Reyes Villa, according to Bolivian and international press reports. The governor, who is allied with the conservative opposition, announced last week that he would seek a referendum granting greater autonomy to Cochabamba province, according to news reports.

While Mencacha was covering the continuing protests on January 12, government supporters hit him with sticks and rocks, kicked him on the head and ribs, and briefly seized his camera, he told CPJ. Mencacha said lost consciousness for a time and later sought treatment at a local hospital. The cameraman told CPJ that he had not filed a formal complaint with local authorities.