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Cablegate: Limiting Discourse: An Authoritarian Bent in The

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1980/01 1991350
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181350Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4350
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6934
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4282
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8170
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5415
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2645
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 2805
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3538
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4727
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5276
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 9883
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0415
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001980

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON BL
SUBJECT: LIMITING DISCOURSE: AN AUTHORITARIAN BENT IN THE
GOB'S LATEST DECREE

REF: LA PAZ 1537

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On June 20, 2007 the Government of Bolivia
issued Supreme Decree 29174, which expands the coverage of
telecommunication technologies in rural parts of Bolivia. The
decree also includes articles affecting community-based radio
stations. While government-funded communitarian-stations will
continue to broadcast overtly political content unaffected,
independent stations are beginning to feel the noose tighten.
Critics warn that the GOB could use it as a tool to limit
freedom of expression. Vague programming guidelines and new
licensing requirements open the door to unilateral government
closures based on political decisions similar to the closure
of RCTV in Venezuela. Given President Evo Morales' earlier
pronunciations and authoritarian tendencies, fears of this
type may not be ill-founded (reftel). End Summary.

----------------
Expanding Access
----------------

2. (SBU) President Evo Morales approved Supreme Decree 29174
on June 20th, subsequently presented to the public on June
26. The decree expands access to telecommunication
technologies in the rural parts of Bolivia, which have
historically lacked access because of their isolation. Vice
Minister of Telecommunications Roy Roque explained that "the
decree looks to expand the communications network in the
countryside of which only .6% is currently covered" (informal
translation). The GOB has set about increasing that coverage
to 80% by 2010. In a country with low print media
circulation, poor television coverage, and even worse
internet access, radio broadcast is by a large margin the
principle source of information for most Bolivians.

----------------------------------------
Restrictions on Community Radio Stations
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The decree includes many articles that negatively
impact community-based radio stations. It bans legislative
and judicial authorities, as well as other public
funcionaries, from owning either whole or part of a radio
station. More importantly, political party representatives or
union leaders are also banned from owning community stations.
The decree prohibits anyone "that exercises control,
direction, or administration in another station" from
obtaining a community station license, the implications of
which are to limit the influence of individual owners. It
also limits the broadcasting radius of these stations to only
one municipality.

4. (SBU) The decree prohibits stations from airing political
messages of any nature and limits them to only cultural and
educational programming. According to the decree, programming
should be directed towards strengthening local culture and
promoting indigenous languages. Any station that fails to do
so will have its license revoked. The decree does not define
the difference between a cultural or political message.

5. (SBU) Significantly, the decree does not affect the 30
radio stations inaugurated by Morales' government with
Venezuelan funding, because their programming ostensibly
contains only educational and cultural content, according to
the GOB. This is disingenuous because these stations
rebroadcast blatantly political, pro-MAS content from Radio
Patria Nuevo, the state owned radio station. By categorically
defining these stations as exempt from the new decree while
tightening the noose around independent stations, the GOB is
restricting full access to the airwaves to broadcasters known
to promote its message.

-----------------------
Reactions to the Decree
-----------------------

6. (SBU) NGO's and broadcasters alike are critical of the new

decree. The Association of Bolivian Radio Broadcasters
(ASBORA) held a series of meetings July 6-7, where
representatives expressed concerns that the new regulations
would make their operations unprofitable. The operators claim
that the new regulations would inhibit their ability to
spread cost by broadcasting in multiple markets.

7. (SBU) Operators are also concerned that the new licensing
procedures restrict the decision making process to only the
Ministry of Public Works and the Vice Minister of
Telecommunications. Since the GOB can decide what is cultural
and what is political, critics argue that broadcasters will
be vulnerable to politically motivated attacks. The
government has dubbed the decree as part of "the
democratization of media outlets," seemingly indifferent to
the rights of broadcasters. The reality is that fewer
stations will likely be available to listeners since single
municipality stations are generally unprofitable.

-------
Comment
-------

8. (SBU) President Evo Morales uses indigenismo (the
promotion of indigenous cultures) as a political tool, thus
blurring the line between cultural and political messages.
The decree's provisions resemble the Venezuelan regulations
that enabled President Hugo Chavez to unilaterally close
RCTV. While it is apparently OK for President Morales to mix
cultural and political messages, it seems his government will
not be so forgiving when it comes to granting or revoking
licenses of community radio stations.

9. (SBU) Decree 29174 can be seen as part of President
Morales' pattern of hostility towards the media, e.g. as
expressed at the 5th World Encounter of Leftist
Intellectuals, May 22-25 (reftel). At the conference, he
characterized media outlets as the principle sources of
resistance to change and signed an agreement with the
Venezuelan and Cuban governments establishing an observer
organization to monitor "hegemonic interests" in the media.
End Comment.
GOLDBERG

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