Bolivian newspapers publish blank front pages to protest anti-racism law; some journalists go on hunger strike

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  • October 7, 2010

By Maira Magro

Most Bolivian newspapers published the same first page Thursday (Oct. 7)—a blank page with one headline: “There is no democracy without freedom of expression.” The unprecedented protest follows this week’s decision by President Evo Morales to maintain controversial articles in the proposed Antiracism Law.

The newspaper protests, and marches in several cities added to the announcement of
hunger strike by six journalists, La Prensa reports.

Morales decided to maintain Article 16 of the bill, which called for the closure of news organizations that report information considered racist or discriminatory, but he agreed to modify Article 23, which expressly provides for the punishment of journalists who publish racist content.

Journalists and news media complain that the Antiracism Law violates freedom of expression by publishing information deemed racist or discriminatory, the newspapers El Tiempo and Opinión explain. Journalists argue that they could be punished simply for reporting discriminatory acts or opinions of others, regardless of whether they agree with them.

However, many social movements approve passage of the law, which represents Morales’ efforts to fight social and racial discrimination in Bolivia, where most people are indigenous.

The bill, already approved by the Chamber of Deputies, still faces a vote in the full Senate and could be approved this week, Bolivian media say.

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.