Bolivian President Delivers Ambulances to Struggling Hospitals After Local Report Gets National Play

Aug 172010
  • Knight Fellow Celia Cernadas teaches journalists in rural regions of Bolivia how to upload their radio stories to the website she created.

After reporter Marcelo Huanco Dorado learned that hospitals in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz faced a critical shortage of ambulances, he immediately posted the story on santacruzhoy.info.

Created by Knight International Journalism Fellow Celia Cernadas, santacruzhoy.info is more than just a website. It’s also a new nationwide distribution channel for radio reports. Audio postings by rural journalists can be posted on the site and downloaded by radio stations across the country.

Prior to this, Huanco’s story would have just aired locally. Now, it had national reach. Seven days later after the story aired, Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived unexpectedly in Santa Cruz with a convoy of seven ambulances that he delivered to the hospitals. He promised to “work hand in hand” with local authorities.

That’s just one example of the high-impact stories that have appeared on the santacruzhoy site. Reporter Victor Hugo Chore from the town of Guarayos Ascension aired a series on the city’s inability to provide clean water to its citizens. The mayor said the project was delayed for budgetary reasons. After the stories aired, the town mayor and a contracting firm reached agreement. Finally work began to clean up the water and build a dam.

After a series of reports on the Los Pozos market, where stolen merchandise and weapons were openly sold, officials ordered a military deployment to close down 30 shops. Officials also announced a plan to prevent those with stolen merchandise from returning.

“Santacruzhoy.com is the first website in Bolivia that links urban and rural journalists, and offers multimedia reports,” says Cernadas. “Most important, it is the only way to get news on the city of Santa Cruz and many other villages and provinces in the area.”

During her Knight Fellowship, Cernadas faced many challenges. Educational levels of some rural journalists were so low that many struggled to read and write properly. Some had never even used a computer, let alone sent an email. On top of that, villages were far apart, connected by poor roads, making travel for training in these places very difficult.

Despite the many challenges, Cernadas has trained more than 80 journalists in multimedia journalism. Some 20 urban, suburban and rural journalists now contribute to the site regularly. It has received an estimated 8,000 visits and has more than 1,700 users. Not bad in a country where Internet penetration is at most 10 percent.