Map of Bolivia

Official name: Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Geography: Bolivia is a landlocked country at the heart of South America, covering an
area of 1.1 million square kilometres (US Department of State, 2012). It is bordered by Brazil,Peru ,Chile, Argentina and Paraguay.

Capital city: The official capital of Bolivia is Sucre, however La Paz is the political and
administrative centre of Bolivia and has been the seat of government and the 'de facto' capital since the end of the nineteenth century. Other major cities include: Santa Crus, Cochabamba and El Alto.
Official flag of Bolivia

Population: 10 426 154 -- 2011 est ( U.S Department of State, 2012 )

Ethnic Groups: Quechua 30%, Mestizo (mixed white & Amerindian) 30%, Aymara 25% White 15%( CIA, 2012)

Predominate Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and Guarani.

Religion: Predominately Roman Catholic 95% ( Became a secular state in 2010)

Currency: Bolivian boliviano.

Freedom of Press Index Ranking: Currently ranked 108th on the 2011-2012 Index.

After 16 years of war Bolivia finally became an independent republic on August 6, 1825 after nearly three centuries of Spanish rule. The country was named after Simon Boliviar, a leader in the Spanish American wars of Independence. Since its independence, Bolivia has lost almost half of its territory including its Pacific Ocean coast,which was captured by Chile during the war of the Pacific (1879-83) officially making the country landlocked on all sides. Although Bolivia is very wealthy in minerals such as tin, silver and natural gases, it remains to this day one of South America's poorest countries. The social dynamic of the country is often its largest point of turmoil, with a large discrepancy in the quality of life between upper-class urban families (most often spanish ancestry) and the indigenous Bolivians.
Subject to political unrest since its independence, Bolivia has seen a staggering 187 coups in just 157 years ( Freedom House, 2012) finally becoming a democratic state in 1982.
In 2003 with the favor of the rural indigenous masses , socialist leader Eva Morales was elected president in a landslide win , which was to be repeated in the 2009 re-election with a 64% vote and a record 95% turnout (Freedom House, 2012) . His controversial strategies have magnified social tensions between Amerinidan populations of the west and non-indigenous communities of the east
Morales party (MAS) has now also taken control of the legislative government using its majority in 2010 to pass new anti-corruption laws as well as a re-draft the country's constitution. In october 2011 Bolivia became the first country in Latin America to elect judges to its high courts.

Like many of its neighboring countries, Bolivia's original journalistic approaches were very much affected by its period of Spanish colonial rule. After Bolivia's independence from the Spanish, Bolivian newspapers continued to be official state publications. The inconsistent political nature of the Bolivian government over the years has shown how journalism within the country is often dangerous and unsafe. For example, on the 27 of June 2012, an Oruro- based community radio station owned by a peasant union has become the third local radio station to subjected to dynamite attacks in the past two weeks. (Reporters without Boarders ,2012)

Media Ownership

Private broadcasters and newspaper companies have dominated the Bolivian media and their ownership is highly centralized, though in recent times there has been a rise in government run media sources; most notably in newspapers and broadcast media (especially radio). This recent rise in government and indigenous ownership is a direct result of Morales New ( July 2012) telecommunications laws which dictate that state run media should control at least 33% of all broadcast licenses ,limiting commercial broadcasters to 33% and leaving local and indigenous communities entitled to 17% of licenses. These new laws limit the number of privately owned media companies as well as banning, monopolies and oligopolies. However, throughout Bolivia's history the use of media by governmental bodies in order to control what was said about politics has been extremely significant.

Supporters of press freedom welcomed the expansion of media access and distribution to new groups, but also expressed concern about the ability of local and indigenous entities to sustain themselves economically , without turning to government reliance and control. The new law also opens a significant privacy loop hole , allowing the government for reasons of national security and 'emergencies' to access various forms of private communication such as e-mail and telephone calls.

The majority of latin American countries have a communication system characterized by a concerntration of information monopolies and a scarcity of public media. Research has show that over 64.4 % of journalists have admitted to having censored themselves, for fear of sanctions 39.9% in adherence to advertising , 14.2% in moral conflict.

Media Forms

the press play a pivotal role in the redistribution of power in bolivia , challenging government corruption and injustice. Because Bolivia only became a democratic nation in the mid twentieth century, centralised attitudes and tendencies remain widespread effecting the level of freedom experienced by journalists ( periodosticas).


For years newspapers reflected specific political agendas and journalists that did not reciprocate these ideas where subject to harassment and gaol time along with other punishments such as death. Low literacy levels of approximately 86.7% (CIA, 2012) (one of the lowest in South America) have limited newspaper readership, with majorities favoring radio as their media interface, especially in rural areas.
Bolivia circulates 8 national newspapers as well as many other local newspapers which have a strongly regional outlook, these include:
Bolivia has 18 main daily newspapers , the majority of which are published in La Paz.
Three of the key newspapers are :
El Diario (the Daily)
La Paz Daily
El Diario' is the oldest newspaper in Bolivia, it was founded in 1904 with a circulation of approx 50 000.
The newspaper belonged to the Carrasco Family and it has historically reflected their conservative views.
1 eldiario.jpg
La Razon (The Reason)
La Paz Daily
Founded in 1990
El Deber ( The Duty)
Santa Cruz Daily

2 ElDeber_21-6-09.jpg
Over all the country's circulation levels are reasonably low, averaging approximately 55 readers per 1000 people, this is largely due to rural population , low literacy and high poverty rates. Newspapers from in many towns and provincial cities do not receive daily newspapers from La Paz or Santa Cruz until late in the day or early the following morning. Many Bolivian Newspapers now have their own websites that are available to those with internet access. International Newspapers such as Time, are hard to come by in Bolivia and they are usually very expensive, although they can sometimes be found in larger city centres and expensive hotels in place such as La Paz.

Some of other central papers by region include:

'Hoy' newspaper was owned by the Bolivian politician Carlos Reich
Serrate,who also owned Radio Mendez. He believed that the media
should be used as a way to publicise propaganda and achieve electoral
advantages for his political party.

Bolivia's political instability in the past has made journalism a dangerous profession. Over the last couple of years there have been multiple incidents of harm to media professionals. In 2001 reporter Juan Carlos Encias was killied during his coverage of a corporate battle over a limestone cooperative. Closley Following this in 2002 journalists were in danger during the coverage of protests about the closing of coca farms.


Recent changes to laws about media ownership allow only a 33% ownership of media by private companies, the other two thirds are split between indigenous groups and the government, this law applies to all broadcast media in radio and television. This has allowed for a more even spread of media types and to decrease the influence the very concentrated private ownership has allowed for. An interesting aspect of this is that many of the indigenous groups are very much pro-government. Within larger cites such as La Paz and Santa cruz there is access to cable networks, offering televsion programs such as CNN and BBC WORLD, however in small cities local cable networks do not offer the same variety.
Approximately 900000 televsions sets in Bolivia.
There are 48 television stations throughout Bolivia ( Press Reference,2012) , these included:

bolivian tv.jpg
' Bolivia Television' - The first television network in Bolivia.

Bolivia TV ( Canal 7), was the first television station in Bolivia, it was established in August 1969. The channel is a government run network. Although it may have started out with the intension of of acting as a 'public service' channel for the community, it has instead served as a propaganda tool for all the running governments throughout Bolivian History.


Radio is Bolivia's leading source of information, largely due to its 'easy' rural access and appeal to both literate and non literate audiences. Radio is the most democratic and popular source of media as it adequately represents the cultural diversity within the Bolivian population and it is the cheapest form of news media in Bolivia. It's dominance as the main source of news and current events for Bolivians, is reflected in the hundreds of stations that offer numerous broadcastings in indigenous languages. One of the leading news radio stations is Radio Fides, which is owned by the Catholic Church and broadcast on different FM frequencies across the country. There are 73 FM radio stations and 171 AM radio stations within Bolivia as well as 329 radio stations ( Press Reference 2012) and 525000 radio receivers.

Other radio stations within Bolivia include:

radio patria nueva.jpg
estrella 2.jpg

Radio Fides, the leading news radio station in Bolivia. It is broadcasted and run by the Catholic Church in Bolivia.
Radio Patria Nuvea, is a radio station which broadcasts from the city of La Paz. It is a state run network that reaches the more remote regions of the country.
Radio Estrella, is a regional radio station located in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

News agencies

Bolivis hosts several main newsagencies, (the largest) La Angencia Boliviana de Informacion


Approximatley 173.1 million internet users in south america , 43.3 % penetration of the population ( December 31st 2011 Considering that the total population of Bolivia is more than 10 million, the number of people within this landlocked country is relatively low. Most of the population that have access to the internet, access it through servers at work or in public places such as internet cafes. According to the Internet World Stats: Usage and population statistics, there was a mere 1, 985, 970 internet users in Bolivia as of December 2011 (Internet world states). The country has little rural internet access, as the population in rural areas are scattered and their incomes are low. Links to broadband networks in rural areas around Bolivia are rare as they are not deemed to be profitable enough fir service providers.

Emerging Trends in Media Ownership

  • Newspaper and Print Media Ownership——Bolivia has 19 Journalistic media agents. The mainstream media agents are:
  • El Diario which was founded in 1904, and has a daily circulation is 50,000.
  • La Razon ,who's daily circulation is 20,000, started at 16/5/1929.
  • PRESENCIA,began in 1952 and has a daily circulation of approx 40,000.
  • The only print agent established and owned by current government is EL CAMBIO ,which daily circulation is about only 10,000. Every states and city also have their own newspaper. The emerging trends in print media ownership and the remark in Bolivia tend to still be controlled by old mainstream newspapers instead of government's influence.
  • Boardcasting——There are 639 boardcasting station in Bolivia (2006). 322 of them are established in city, other 317 of them are in country side. One of the news recently released showed that there is one of Bolivia's high level military officer choose one individual boardcasting station to present that recently Bolivia military are convening their fighting capacity to main big cities. The problem of strike demonstration might cause bigger scale of coup. The choice of free individual boardcasting by the officer indicate the emerging free trends and ownership of Bolivia's boardcasting(China Daily 2012).
  • Television——There are 135 television company in Bolivia. Only 22 of them are established in La Paz, which is the city that government established in.The high scale of television ownership can be identified.(
  • Internet——Most of the Internet News Media of Bolivia are now owned by foreign media companies(

Media Laws and Regulation
Picture 2.png
Taken from: The MCC Country Scorecard (2011)

Many of Bolivia's media laws and regulations surround protecting the rights of companies, individuals and the media itself. One of the first laws and one of the most influential was passed in 1925, providing legal protection and confidentiality agreements for informants and sources (Press Reference 2012) . This law has come under much scrutiny in the last decade, with one movement lobbying to have it abolished , it was however repealed in 2000 after large amounts of public protest.

To off-set the high concentration of media ownership laws introduced stop monopolies and oligopolies of media ownership, also there are restrictions on media liscences, 1/3 go to the private sector, another third go to the government and the last third go to local and indigenous groups.

The Telecommunications law of 1995 and the 1997 amendment to the penal code made for a strengthening of already harsh defamation laws. Defamation to a citizen is still considered purely civil but defamation of public officials is a criminal offense. The amendment of the penal code even allows police to enforce defamation laws. This has lead to Journalists and media companies in Bolivia to be highly self regulating so as to avoid harsh penalties.

Television is regulated mainly by a body known as the La Superintendencia Telecomunicaciones (SITTEL), it regulates content and the legality of broadcast. This is a major issue in Bolivia as piracy is rampart.

Despite the constitution stipulating freedom of expression , in reality the media is subject to limitation. Joel Simon the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concerns over Bolivia's 2010 anti-discrimination laws which he deemed to be "far reaching and and vague". Examining specifically articles 16 and 24 which states that "any media outlet that endorses or publishes racist or discriminatory ideas will be liable to economic sanctions and the suspension of its operating license" as well stating that the individuals and media outlets involved in said actions shall face "prison sentences of one to five years". Many member of the press freedom organisations joined Simon in their concern for the effect these new laws would have on of the freedom in Bolivia's media. The new laws are likely to result in; self-censorship among journalists who fear imprisonment or economic punishment while awarding government power to regulate and suppress speech.

The 2001 electoral code Reform Law gives the electoral court the power to suspend those who dont follow their strict political advertising. This kind of behaviour is still at large In 2011 when the electoral Regime Law placed restrictions on the coverage of candiates running in the october judicial elections making it difficult for the press to provide relevent information for voters to make independent and informed decisions.


Laws surrounding censorship still remain an underlying issue, though the laws of the country allow the freedom of speech, the country itself and the entire region is relatively new to democratic governments only shaking off authoritarian regimes in the mid to late twentieth century.
Although the Bolivian constitution stipulates free speech to all, both journalists and civilians who defame public officials (with increasing penalties depending on how important the public official is) can be jailed. Another recorded incident of government media censorship is of the protests in regards to the proposed water rate hike in 2000, to help stop the public outrage the government took over three radio stations to make sure what was being broadcast was that they wanted.
The Freedom of Press Index denotes Bolivian press as "partly free", with the recent implication of laws strengthening the ability of the government to prosecute journalists who write negative stories about the government.
With only 11% of the population able to access the internet, even fewer with broadband and relatively low literacy rates, the newspapers and sites lack the influence they have in more developed countries, this makes the television and radio the most widely used sources of information for the nation, the recent mandates surrounding the the limited private ownership and the increase of government run broadcast media ownership give the government a large amount of control of the information being supplied to Bolivia's people.

National Registry of Journalists

In accordance with these other laws Journalists must complete a university degree in journalism and register with the National Registry of Journalists, to legally practice journalism in Bolivi; without this degree and registry journalism is a criminal offence, although it is more likley that they will just be sanctioned as opposed to charged. Under article 34 of the printing laws of Bolivia it states:

"persons who call themselves journalists without complying with the pertinent legal requirements shall be sanctioned and prosecuted in accordance with the Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes."

The lack of enforcement however may have something to do with the fact the Inter-American court of Human Rights sees this law as a violation of human rights.

Current /relevant news stories in Bolivia

One of the current issues creating issues for the media in Bolivia is the harsh prosecution of anti government articles, for example recently a journalist was jailed for two and half years after an article by them accused a lawyer of taking excessive fees whilst working for the government as a form of corruption, even though the lawyer continues to deny the crimes the journalist, Rogerio Pelaez, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that his investigation was well documented and there was much evidence against the lawyer.


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