Monday, October 5, 2009

Bolivian journalists eager to investigate

Orgasmos Que Matan. Proposed budget for story: $500.

Some reporters wanted to explore eastern Bolivia, where hundreds of Guaraní Indian families live in a state of semi-slavery. Others proposed investigating women's rights and sexuality. The working title of their project: "Orgasms that Kill."
No doubt, Bolivian reporters are eager to dig into all kinds of difficult and intriguing issues. Mexican journalist Pedro Enrique Armendares and I found that out in September when we traveled to Sucre in south-central Bolivia to conduct a workshop on investigative journalism.
Nearly 80 Bolivian journalists took part in the workshop from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13. Some 35 journalism students also attended some of the sessions, covering everything from using the Internet and finding documents to cultivating sources.

Some of the most interesting discussions came when Pedro and I asked the journalists to divide into groups and tell us what stories they would like to investigate. Proposed topics ranged from road construction and child labor to urban doctors.
One group wanted to look at whether some Bolivian journalists are morally corrupt and use their profession to further their personal or political agenda.

Pedro Enrique Armendares

Journalists at the workshop agreed that Bolivia is fertile ground for in-depth projects. And I'd argue that there's a great need for investigative journalism in Bolivia right now.
The South American nation is divided between supporters of President Evo Morales, who wants to install a socialist government, and a conservative opposition that favors a multi-party democracy. Bolivians need information so they can make the best decisions for their country.
But it's not an easy place for journalists to work.

Bolivian journalists discuss story ideas
Pedro Enrique Armendares

Dozens of Bolivian journalists over the past three years have suffered attacks, threats and intimidation - or worse.
In March 2008, protesters swept into government-owned Radio Municipal and beat reporter Carlos Quispe Quispe. He died two days later.
In July 2009, assailants attacked and beat Gigavisión cameraman Marcelo Lobo, then cut his cheek and his tongue, according to the Committee to Project Journalists in New York.
Despite such perils, the Bolivian journalists that Pedro and I met were enthusiastic and eager to learn more about investigative reporting.

U.S. State Department's Bolivia page
June 2008 Reuters story on plight of Guaraní Indians
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights press release on the Guaraní Indians

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