Bolivia criticized for using ads as weapons

The Inter American Press Association has criticized the government of Bolivia for using official advertising as a tool to put pressure on news media, in particular those that criticize the South American country’s president, Evo Morales.

On this occasion the press association criticized discrimination levied against the Catholic radio network Erbol, which is facing a serious financial situation after the government denied it official advertising, punishing it for its critical and independent editorial stance. It complained that several of its private sector advertisers had stopped advertising out of fear of reprisals from the government.

Erbol recently opened a bank account to raise funds and thus alleviate the lack of advertising revenue. However, the ministry of works reacted with threats to contributors, the station said. On its Web site the ministry warned that those contributing to the campaign would be subjected to controls on “money laundering and financing terrorism,” arguing that such contribution was “an act of confrontation” that sought to apply soft blows against the government.

Association President Gustavo Mohme called on the government of  Morales “to stop using official advertising as a means of reward or punishment.” Mohme, editor of the Lima, Perú, newspaper La República, added, “Press freedom requires there to be transparency and clear rules and the use of equitable methods and techniques for the application of public resources in the investment of official advertising.”

Claudio Paolillo, described as “misappropriation of public funds and an abuse of political power the arbitrary discrimination in the placement of official advertising.” Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said that “this case moreover has the aggravating circumstance that the government is threatening with reprisals anyone who voluntarily wishes to support a fundraising campaign.” He is chairman of the association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information,

Both the association and Bolivia’s national press association have been denouncing that in recent years there has been an increase in the policy of discrimination in the placement of official advertising, violating established principles.

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