240,000 Bolivians Sign Against Articles of "Gag Law"

Bolivians throughout the country continue to protest, march and sign against the new Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, which many allege will restrict freedom of speech and of the press in Bolivia.

Protests against what is now being called the "muzzle law" began with journalists in Santa Cruz who went on hunger strike 12 days ago in opposition to articles 16 and 23 of the law which seek to sanction media who publish or broadcast any racist or discriminatory comments, even if made by third parties.

The protest quickly caught on and has spread throughout the country as citizens, who believe the government will use this law to silence any voices of dissent, show their disagreement by marching, joining hunger strikes, and signing ledgers. About one million signatures are being sought to force Congress to re-write or eliminate the articles.

The media are clear in that they are not against the anti-racism law itself, but do not agree they should be held responsible for the opinions of third parties, such as interviewees, or readers who post messages on their online forums. They are concerned over allowing the government to determine which statements might or might not be considered racist or discriminatory.

The media also do not believe they should be forced to censure the opinions of others.

Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, 16 October, 2010: "Some journalists, some media are resisting the Law Against Racism. This helps me instead of wearing us down. And here, thanks to them, we are going to champion the struggle against racism throughout the world, not just in Bolivia. Happily, we have an internal rival who doesn't wish to be decolonized".

These were the words of President Evo Morales in a new attack on journalists on Friday; regardless, by yesterday over 240,000 signatures had been collected to request Congress derogate article 16 and modify article 23 of the Law Against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination, which affects freedom of expression.

In addition, all of the country's capital cities (9) continue with the campaign to collect signatures. In Trinidad a "moto-protest" (journalists on motorcycles) took place; in Santa Cruz some journalists on hunger strike were replaced by others; and Cochabamba is promoting "the longest letter" in the world, for freedom of expression.

"How can it be possible that there are journalists, or owners of media, or commentators who use defending freedom of expression as a pretext for defending racism. I don't understand that. Those are our differences. But they are few," said the president.

The press is mobilized as Government representatives and leaders of some social sectors and media that support the government party are defining the regulations for article 16 of the anti-racism law which establishes fines and even network closures for those who allow what the government might consider to be racist or discriminatory ideas.

The Associations of Journalists of La Paz Bolivia, the Confederation of Press Workers, the National Press Association, and the Association of Radio Stations of Bolivia are not participating in determining regulations for this law.

In Trinidad journalists took to their motorcycles to circle plaza Guillermo Ballivián where, after their protest, citizens lined up to sign notarized ledgers in support of the legislative initiative that seeks to annul the controversial articles of the law. In Beni, about 3000 signatures were collected.

Over 120,000 signatures have been collected so far in Santa Cruz, while in Chuquisaca more ledgers were opened in the provinces of Cinti, Chaco and Yotala. Throughout the jurisdiction, about 8000 people signed.

In La Paz, press workers installed tables at various points throughout the city, Bolivia's seat of government, to collect signatures to promote the national movement against the two articles.

"Evo, God gave me a voice. You didn't."

Journalists in Cochabamba have made a large roll of newspaper print available on which they hope the public will write the longest letter in the world to president Evo Morales, and on which they request articles 16 and 23 of the Law Against Racism be annulled.

Signatures are being collected at three fixed points in Cochabamba and one mobile point, and over 10,000 have been collected. People of every social level and age, from school children to university students, workers, vendors, and professionals have come forth to sign.

The roll of newspaper print was installed at Plaza Colón, and over 50 letters have been written on it so far by many of the people who signed in support of the media's demand, including children. Such is the case with one little girl who wrote "Evo, God gave me a voice. You didn't."

This is a translation. Read this Article in Spanish

Source: Los Tiempos
Date: 16-Oct-2010

Opinión, Cochabamba, 16 October, 2010: A citizen’s initiative to write Bolivian President Evo Morales the longest letter for freedom of expression and annulment of articles 16 and 23 of the Law Against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination began today in Cercado and was backed by the Committee for Freedom of Expression, formed by journalists from Cochabamba.

Dozens of people, children and teens, regardless of age or race, today began writing a variety of messages regarding freedom of expression.

“Listen to your people, don’t take freedom of expression away from us” - “I want my grandchildren to grow up expressing themselves freely” - “Mr. President, please don’t silence us, no one is God enough to judge what is or isn’t discriminatory” - “Listen to us, don’t close your mind until you hear your people. Those of us who sign today voted for you too. God bless you,” are some of the messages being written on a newsroll on which people are writing letters to the President.

It has been placed at Plaza Colón, in front of the El Hospicio Temple.

This is a translation. Read this Article in Spanish

Source: Opinión
Dte: 16-Oct-2010

El Diario, La Paz, 16 October, 2010: An international mission of Inter American Press Association representatives will arrive in Bolivia on Monday to analyze the scope of two articles included in the Law Against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination, in a show of solidarity with the Bolivian media.

The mission, which will visit La Paz on the 18th and 19th of this month, will be headed by Gustavo Mohme, Director in Lima, Peru and president of the organization’s Press Insittute. He will accompany Claudio Paolillo of Montevideo, Paraguay who is the vice president of the Uruguayan Freedom of the Press and Information Commission, and Ricardo Trotti, the IAPA’s Freedom of the Press director.

The delegates of this hemispheric organization requested an interview with president Evo Morales and other public authorities in order to learn about their positions regarding the recently signed anti-racism law and the negative consequences articles 16 and 23 will have on freedom of expression.

On the other hand, support from citizens throughout the country continues to grow. The population of Santa Cruz massively supports a campaign initiated by press organizations, to request the “muzzle articles” which violate and suppress freedom of expression be annulled.

This is a translation. Read this Article in Spanish

Source: El Diario
Date: 16-Oct-2010

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