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President Evo Morales signs controversial anti-racism law in Bolivia

Bolivia newspapers protest ap

Despite the vigorous protests of journalists across Bolivia, President Evo Morales has signed the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, a controversial measure that would make it illegal for news organizations in Bolivia to report on statements or acts deemed racist.

"We've had more than 500 years of racism," Morales said, according to Reuters. "At last we passed a law to combat racism and discrimination."

The Bolivian Senate passed the measure without any modifications to the language passed by the lower Chamber of Deputies. Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president and a former coca-leaf grower, signed the legislation Friday while flanked by indigenous and union leaders.

Journalists and Bolivia's opposition elite, centered in the wealthier eastern province of Santa Cruz, have protested two sections of the law, citing fears of government censorship. Under Articles 16 and 23 of the measure, news outlets could be shut down for publishing content deemed racist, and journalists could be jailed for the offense.

On Thursday, several newspapers across the country published blank front pages in protest, along with the message: "There is no democracy without freedom of expression."

Journalists have already collected thousands of signatures for a potential referendum on the law (link in Spanish). The daily Los Tiempos published a short message prominently on its front page online, informing readers that it was shutting down commenting capability on the website due to the law.

Bolivia's Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination goes into effect in January, reports the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Newspapers publish a protest message on their front pages in Bolivia on Thursday. Credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (3)

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If you would like to read Bolivian Law No. 045 Against Racism and Any Form of Discrimination in English, please visit

I am Bolivian as well and educated in the U.S., the love for democracy should mean the right to offend any ethinic group. If there is anything that Democracy should teach us is tolerance and the spread of civility.

Defending racist expressions or view on the media is a step backward, to the era of Adolf Hitler, when he used the media to instill and spread of racism.

Bolivia is as cosmopolitan as New York city, the last thing it needs is the spread of racism and insults among its populace.

I applaud Morales in his stance against the spread of racism under the pretext of democratic expression. We live in the 21st century not in the 18th.

I am Bolivian born and went back for a year,Morales incites violence against his opositores,lyinching,one can be be whipped by his peasants that walk with whips,they take over private homes. Morales created this Law to take over any institution that is against him. He has called women from a Province "drunks"he ordered Christian Bolivian women to dress as Muslim for the visit of the Iranian President,he has called insults to mestizos and criollos[whites] not to mention President Obama and the USA.
Today he is preparing a march against the US Embassy to try to cover the thousands of signatures against the Law that is censorship.


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