‘Military dictatorship style’: Bolivia’s Morales condemns takeover of state TV & radio stations (VIDEOS)
Bolivia TV (BTV) and Patria Nueva (RPN) radio stations were forced to cut off their broadcasts after a rowdy crowd of 300 protesters descended on their HQ in La Paz, effectively placing it under siege on Saturday.
The demonstrators, reportedly enraged over the way the protests that have gripped the nation since mid-October are being portrayed by state media, demanded journalists vacate the premises if they do not want their offices to be raided.
Forty employees of both BTV and RPN eventually caved in to the demands and left the building as they were heckled by chanting protesters.
Patria Nueva director Ivan Maldonado said the journalists, who were vastly outnumbered by the protesters, “were evicted by force after receiving constant threats from people gathered outside.”
In a comment to Sputnik, Maldonado stressed that the employees were taken hostage by the crowd.
“Protesters surrounded our studios and held us captive for two hours, threatening to destroy our equipment... if we did not stop our journalistic work,” he said, noting that the station eventually went off air and resorted to playing music and films.
The takeover was denounced by Morales on Twitter. The socialist leader noted that while the protesters say they have taken to the streets to defend democracy, their actions speak otherwise.
“They say they defend democracy, but they are acting like dictatorial regimes”
Morales also condemned what he called “a cowardly and savage attack” on a radio station run by a labor union – Unified Syndical Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB) – of which Morales is a member.
The station was overrun by a group of protesters on Saturday, who then tied its director, Jose Aramayo, to a tree. Videos and photos of the capture have been gaining traction on online, drawing backlash from Morales supporters.
There have also been reports that the station’s offices were ransacked by the protesters.
Tensions have been running high in Bolivia, with the opposition accusing the government of election fraud after Morales narrowly secured a 10-point lead against primary challenger Carlos Mesa in an October 20 general election, thus avoiding a runoff. Morales has denied allegations of tempering with the vote count, and invited the Organization of American States (OAS) to audit the results. The review is still underway.
The protests sweeping across the country have been marred by violence. Footage emerged online Sunday showing the residence of Oruro city governor Víctor Hugo Vásquez engulfed in flames after protesters reportedly set fire to the building. The house was reportedly looted before it was ravaged by the blaze.
ATENCIÓN | Opositores bolivianos queman la residencia del gobernador de #Oruro. Pdte @evoespueblo sigue denunciando el #GolpeDeEstadoEnBolivia. Se ha venido generando tras el desconocimiento de su triunfo, a pesar de los más de 10 puntos de diferencia con el candidato perdedor pic.twitter.com/5PBShVbrqg— Érika Ortega Sanoja (@ErikaOSanoja) November 10, 2019
The governor, who is an ally of Morales, has been moved to a safe place.
In a statement on Saturday, the Armed Forces said that they wouldn’t confront people “to whom [they] have a duty.” There have been reports that some police and military were spotted marching along with the protesters.
On Friday, the Bolivian Foreign Ministry denounced the servicemen who “abandoned their constitutional role” of protecting society and state institutions.
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