The following dispatch was filed by Ray Bonner, who left Bolivia on Monday. Bonner, a freelance journalist, has filed stories to The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, and The Associated Press.
Mary Helen Spooner, an American journalist held for six days in jail in Bolivia on charges of defaming the military government there, arrived here today after being released from detention and expelled.
Spooner, a freelance writer for the Financial Times and the Economist, both British publications, and the National Catholic Reporter of Kansas City, Mo., was released after editors for the two British papers, at the request of the Bolivian government, expressed regrets for her alleged violations of stringent new press regulations.
The expulsion of Spooner and my own escape from Bolivia after her arrest, along with other expulsions and jailings, have left few foreign correspondents in that country to report on the harsh government of Gen. Luis Garcia Meza, who took power in a coup a month ago.
Garcia charged in a recent speech that "the press has been infiltrated by international extremist elements" and his government has stepped up its virulent campaign against foreign correspondents.
On the day of the coup, military officers ordered journalist at gunpoint, to stop sending reports abroad. Two Brazilian reporters fled the country after being detained. A Newsweek photographer was beaten and held for three days and the Associated Press bureau chief in La Paz, a Bolivian, was expelled.
Other correspondents continued working -- from places in hiding, using false names -- as the regime continued to denounce their activities.
A week ago, I learned that Spooner had just been arrested in the same hotel that I was in. "They're downstairs looking for you," a friend warned me.
I was led out of the hotel, through alleys and to an embassy where I spent the night, with another journalist who had fled the hotel.
I left the embassy the next morning, intending to fly out of Bolivia but changed my plans when I was warned that I would be arrested at the airport.
"They delayed the flight for five hours looking for you," a source told me later. "They even searched the baggage compartments."