Inter American Press Association (SIP) publishes statement on September 28 criticizing electoral law
According to the statement, SIP voiced strong opposition against Bolivia’s new electoral law, which came into effect on September 4. The law introduced changes to Bolivia’s electoral system, obliging privately-owned media outlets to publish political ads for free ahead of the upcoming 2019 presidential and legislative elections. SIP claims that the provision is unconstitutional and that it will likely undermine the media’s independence and financial sustainability. The law further established primary elections in the country, slated for January 2019, intended for the population to elect candidates for each political party. On September 28, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) approved the new regulation governing the upcoming elections.
Considering that Bolivia is poorly ranked in terms of press freedom, the measure forcing outlets to publish political ads for free will most likely translate in governmental pressure to run campaigns favorable to President Evo Morales. This assessment is backed by Morales’ perceived authoritarian style of governance, including his willingness to run for a fourth mandate, despite a failed referendum on the matter in February 2016. In November 2017, the Supreme Justice Tribunal overturned the results of the referendum, thus allowing Morales to run for office again notwithstanding a constitutional ban. In light of these developments, it is likely that President Morales will take part in the primary elections to legitimate his candidacy with supporters. In the meantime, SIP’s criticisms are highly unlikely to have a policy impact or to compel the TSE to review its position.