Human Rights Watch Friday posted messages on Twitter admitting to the organization's concern over the charges filed in Bolivia by Prosecutor Junior Flores against journalists Andrés Rojas and Adriana G., whose arrest was requested.
Rojas and Adriana G. were accused of economic damage to the State for hiring news anchor Pablo Llano with a salary higher than the one he was entitled to because he did not have a professional degree when they worked for Bolivia TV in 2020.
”We are concerned about the criminal proceedings initiated by @FGE_Bolivia (Prosecutor's Office) against two journalists and four former officials of a public channel for allegedly paying a salary higher than the one allowed to another journalist, posted HRW senior researcher for Latin America César Muñoz on Twitter.
The maximum penalty for the crimes charged against the six people is 10 years in prison. The Prosecutor's Office also requested their preventive detention for 6 months, he added.
In his third post, Muñoz expressed that A fundamental principle of justice is proportionality: the criminal charge must be proportional to the alleged conduct. Another basic principle is that preventive detention should be an exceptional measure and not, as has been the case in Bolivia for years, the general rule”.
Four other former officials of the station were charged, according to ANF.
Rojas and Adriana G. authorized the hiring of Llano with a salary of $b 11,498, when due to the lack of a college degree it should have not exceeded $b 6,000 bolivianos per month.
The hiring took place when Rojas and Adriana G. were general manager and information manager of the BTV network, respectively, under interim President Jeanine Áñez.
From the prosecutor's angle, Llano's total income of $b 84,701 (US$12,100) constitutes an economic damage to the State for which up to 10 years in prison for six people were requested, in addition to the refunding of that amount.
National Committee for the Defense of Democracy (Conade) leader Manuel Morales said the accusation was an act of repression not only against the two journalists, but also against the media and journalists in general, and that it is a sign that the State is in a new facet of repression.
Journalist Zulema Alanes told Brújula Digital that the measure is a process that exceeds the administrative rules that should be followed in this case and, therefore, it is an open judicial persecution against colleagues.
Comunidad Ciudadana Senator Cecilia Requena concurred. Criminal charges against two practicing journalists is evidently an act of harassment against freedom of the press and of expression and, in general, against the democratic freedoms, she said while underlining the selectivity of the investigation and the disproportion” of the alleged administrative crime with the charge of up to 10 years in prison.
Pedro Glasinovic, president of the National Association of Journalists (ANPB), agreed with Requena on the issue of disproportionality. He said that the accusation is out of place and that justice must determine if an unlawful act has been committed in the hiring of a journalist.
Andres Rojas and Adriana G. are journalists with longstanding careers in Bolivia, with many years in the media. (Adriana G. has requested through her lawyers not to be identified by her last name).