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Reporter Without Borders
Bolivia April 2, 2012
H.E. Evo Morales Ayma
Palacio de Gobierno, Plaza Murillo
Republic of Bolivia
Fax: (011.591.2) 20.42.13
The sentencing last month of a Bolivian journalist to 30 months in jail for criminal defamation is dismaying to all defenders of press freedom. The prosecution and punishment of Rogelio Pelaez is not only a breach of free speech, it is a proclamation that Bolivia refuses to revise its antiquated laws and adhere to principles it has already agreed to.
Rogelio Paleaz, the editor of the monthly, Larga Vista, was charged with defamation and “dissemination of insults” after he published accusations that a lawyer, Walter Molina Gutierrez, was guilty of “illicit enrichment.” According to news reports, Molina had demanded more than $450,000 for representing 285 plaintiffs in a corruption case involving a state Social Security Fund, and a court had approved those fees. Palaez’s lawyer, Ernesto Vasquez, said the judge in the defamation case did not even read his article and made no effort to ascertain the facts in the case, basing his ruling entirely on Larga Vista’s headline, “Un robo con la ley en la mano.” Roughly translated, it means “Using the law to steal.” Paleaz, who says his article was fully documented, plans to appeal his sentence.
We urge you to withdraw the charges against Rogelio Paleaz as clearly unjustified. We also urge your government to de-criminalize media defamation, as Latin American states including Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil have recently done. According to Reporters Without Borders, the “criminalization of media offences” is in clear violation of the American Convention of Human Rights, which Bolivia has signed.
The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has been defending press freedom around the world for more than 70 years, is also disturbed by the killing in February of two Bolivian broadcast journalists. Veronica and Victor Hugo Penasco were siblings who both worked for television and radio stations in Alto, Bolivia. Although a motive for their murders has not been established, we urge your government to investigate whether their killing may have been a result of their journalistic work.
Your Excellency, the protection of journalists — both from physical harm and from the threat of jail for what they have written — is basic to establishing a free society. Without such safeguards, Bolivia will not have a true culture of democracy.
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Wilfredo David Chavez Serrano
Ministro de Gobierno
Avenida Arce 2409
Republic of Bolivia
Mr. Freddy Bersatti Tudela
Embassy of the Republic of Bolivia
3014 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202) 328.3712
Ambassador Pablo Solon
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bolivia to the United Nations
211 East 43rd Street, Room 802
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 687.4642
Mr. John S. Creamer
Embassy of the United States of America
Avenida Arce 2780 (Casilla 425)
Sr. Juan Leon Cornejo
Asociación Nacional de Prensa
Claudio Allaga 1290 (piso 2)
San Miguel, La Paz
Sr. Antonio Carrasco Guzmán
Calle Loayza #118
Sr. Alcides Flores Moncada
Jefe de Redacción
Edificio Los Tiempos
Plaza Quintanilla, Casilla 525
Sr. Carlos Orias Berdecio