Bolivian reporter set on fire while live on air

Four assailants poured petrol on a Bolivian reporter and lit him on fire during his radio program on Monday night, Oct. 29, reported BBC. Fernando Vidal, owner and director of Radio Popular in Yacuíba, a city along the border with Argentina, is in critical condition, reported the EFE news agency.

Vidal, 78 years old, is known as a fierce critic of the department government and for expressing his views on air. The reporter was interviewing two women who alleged corruption by the customs office when the arsonists broke into the studio, poured fuel over the reporter and his studio technician, and ignited the blaze with Molotov cocktails, reported the website Yacuiba.com and The Daily Mail. Listeners heard the attack live on the air and came to the studio to save the reporter and his operator, Yacuiba.com added.

The journalist and technician were taken to different medical centers and suffered from burns on their bodies, reported the newspaper La Razón.

Police arrested three suspects and reported that they had previous criminal records, according to the website Los Tiempos. Following the attack, residents in the city announced a protest against the assault, the website added.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the attack and said the United Nations was concerned over the number of journalists killed in the course of their work, added EFE. The spokesman insisted that governments have the responsibility to respect "completely the right of freedom of expression and to protect those who do their job," the news agency reported.

Different press organizations in the Andean country and the government repudiated the attack, reported FM Bolivia. The interior minister told AFP that there would be an "accelerated and rigorous investigation," according to The Daily Mail. The federations of press workers in Tarija and Santa Cruz condemned the attack and expressed their support for their injured colleague, reported FM Bolivia.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.