Bolivian press refuses to cover gas deal With Uruguay, Paraguay

LA PAZ, December 19, 2008

Bolivian President Evo Morales ‘ plan to boycott the local media led journalists to walk out of an energy ministry press conference in protest, leaving state news agency ABI alone to cover a gas contract signing.

Energy and Hydrocarbon Minister Saul Avalos signed a contract yesterday to export natural gas to Uruguay and Paraguay, ministry spokesman Martin Jimenez said. Of about 40 journalists there to attend the event, only state newswire ABI stayed to speak with the minister and delegations from the two South American countries.

Morales has a history of criticizing local news outlets, which he accuses of being biased toward the political opposition. He said he would ban the local press from news conferences after a story in a La Paz newspaper accused him of allowing contraband to pass into Brazil.

“I’m only going to have conferences with journalists from international agencies, because they’re more responsible in the management of information,” Morales said Dec. 14, ABI reported.

A day later, journalists across Bolivia stopped working for 15 minutes to protest what they saw as attacks on their freedom of expression.

The La Paz-based newspaper La Prensa published a story on Dec. 9 whose headline accused Morales of negotiating the “green light” for contraband into Brazil.

At a press conference that day at the Presidential Palace in La Paz, Morales called the reporter, Raphael Ramirez, to the front and accused him of “lying.”

The article cited a series of letters to and from Morales, and suggested Morales’ guilt by virtue of his association with suspects in a widely-publicized contraband case.

Bolivia has “newspapers and journalists that lie and lie,” Morales said. “If you have proof, show it to me.”

Story by Jonathan J. Levin from Bloomberg

Bloomberg 12/17/2008

Copyright© 2008 respective author or news agency. All rights reserved.



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