Police stand guard in Colquiri, where two radio stations were attacked on June 14. (Reuters/David Mercado)
Police stand guard in Colquiri, where two radio stations were attacked on June 14. (Reuters/David Mercado)

Three community radio stations attacked in Bolivia

Bogotá, June 28, 2012–Bolivian authorities must investigate attacks on three local radio stations in the past two weeks that have caused the broadcasters to go off the air, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

“Authorities cannot allow violent actors to halt the flow of news and information,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York. “We call on Bolivian authorities to fully investigate these attacks, determine the motive, and bring those responsible to justice.”

On Tuesday, an explosion at Radio Emisora Bolivia, a community station in the provincial capital of Oruro, caused major damage and forced the station to suspend broadcasts, according to press reports. No one was injured in the 4:30 a.m. explosion, but the blast damaged the antenna and other equipment, worth at least US$4,000, Félix Condori, the director of the station, told CPJ. He was unsure when the station would return to the airwaves.

Condori told CPJ that he believed the radio station, which airs call-in programs with local farmers and peasants expressing grievances with the government, was targeted because of its focus on the rights of poor people in the region. He did not offer any more details, including who he thought was responsible for the attack. However, the station is located in the same building as the Oruro department headquarters of the ruling government party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). One Oruro journalist, who asked not to be identified, told CPJ that he thought the explosion was aimed at the MAS office.

There have been no arrests, according to news reports.

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.