Two Bolivian journalists threatened after reporting on police scandals

Bogotá, March 27, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns death threats that, according to CPJ interviews and news reports, were made against two Bolivian TV journalists investigating police corruption in central Cochabamba state, and calls on authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

On March 23, a note containing a bullet was attached to the door of Escarley Pacheco’s home in Cochabamba city, threatening the reporter for La Red ATB, one of Bolivia’s largest TV stations, with sexual violence and death, according to reports. A photograph of the handwritten note, published on news websites, showed the paper apparently stained with blood. The note read: “This bullet has your name on it.” It also said: “You never should have stuck your noses into the lives of others… What a pity that you will never investigate anything else in your life.”

The threat followed a March 14 incident in Cochabamba in which the door to the apartment of another ATB reporter, José Miguel Manzaneda, was stained with a blood-like substance, according to news reports. An accompanying note said: “Be careful, J.M,” the reports said.

“The fact that the threats against Escarley Pacheco and José Miguel Manzaneda came after their reporting on police corruption is particularly worrisome,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator, from New York. “Authorities must take all necessary steps to ensure an independent investigation and guarantee the journalists’ protection.”

Both reporters have been covering a series of police scandals for ATB, an independent station that is based in the administrative capital, La Paz, but has a large news operation in Cochabamba city, ATB spokeswoman Angélica Lazarte told CPJ. She added that the station had been the target of abuse on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Manzaneda had recently reported on several policemen who had allegedly been visiting city brothels while in uniform, and had filmed another prominent police officer socializing with a man suspected of involvement in child trafficking, according to news reports.

Pacheco told CPJ that she had been reporting on the arrests this month of three Cochabamba police officers allegedly involved in drug trafficking.

Last year, Pacheco was threatened by then-Cochabamba Police Commander Colonel Alberto Suárez after she reported that the officer had been accused by his ex-wife of domestic abuse, she told CPJ. Suárez apologized for making the threat and stepped down from his post, according to news reports.

Pacheco and Manzaneda reported the threats to the police and the attorney general’s office but Lazarte told CPJ she was not aware of any arrests being made. She said the journalists will continue reporting on police corruption.