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Bolivia: “People want independent information”

TV and radio journalist Peter Deselaers has been in Bolivia on behalf of DW-AKADEMIE since mid-2010. He talks about the media situation there and his work in this Andean country.

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Peter Deselaers

You’ve been in Bolivia for a good half year now. How do you perceive the situation for the media there?

Peter Deselaers: The relationship between the media and the government is very tense. The government often sees the media as an enemy. And the media, for their part, don’t trust the government.
Everyone thinks that a new media law will be passed this year. The old one dates back to 1924 and is in many ways outdated. It would be good if a new law were to be made with civil participation by asking people what they expect from the media.

What would people say?

Journalists have a very bad reputation in Bolivia right now. Most people would hope that the media would keep an eye on the government and other political actors, that the media would remain balanced and fair and not pursue their own political goals. I think people want independent, well-researched information.

DW-AKADEMIE works primarily with local radio stations. How important are they?

There’s quite a diverse media landscape in the cities. Bolivia has a population of ten million and there are around 20 daily newspapers, several domestic TV stations and approximately 1,600 radio stations. Some of them are very small. In rural areas, however, radio is often the only medium which can reach people. The three regional networks with which we work cover almost the entire country.

You’re working on a cooperation project between the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and DW-AKADEMIE in Bolivia. What is your assignment there?

We have two main target areas in Bolivia. We’re working with universities which teach communications studies, and we’re also working with local radio stations.
At the universities we’re currently focusing on curricula development because the universities want to increase the amount of journalism instruction within their communications programs. With the local broadcasters we’re working on the quality of their information programs, aiming to make them easier to understand, more balanced and with more in-depth research.

What do the stations require most?

The most frequently asked questions are “How do we produce news that is easy for the public to understand?” and “How can we integrate our listeners more effectively?” We offer workshops and consultations focusing on these areas for the radio networks. Because this is a long-term project we get to know the people much better and how their individual editorial desks work. This way we can tailor the workshops to really respond to the stations’ needs instead of teaching participants things they can’t use in their own stations because of different existing structures.

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