Bolivia's La Patria newspaper sued 33 times with new anti-racism law

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  • November 28, 2010

By Maira Magro

Since the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination took effect in Bolivia Oct. 8, La Patria newspaper of Oruro has published the following disclaimer on Page 3: “We reserve the right to publish or reject any announcement, information, and/or opinion text that could harm our newspaper. As a consequence, one can not accuse this newspaper of discrimination, partiality, self-censorship, or any other abuse of the right to free expression."

La Patria takes this step to avoid lawsuits and possible prison terms and closure—based on the controversial anti-racism law that punishes news outlets and journalists who report "racist" ideas.

But La Patria itself has become the target of lawsuits that accuse it of violating the rights to free speech of Oruro residents, Los Tiempos explains. Former chief electoral official David Apaza, says he has filed 33 lawsuits against La Patria based on the anti-racism law. The parties also include the paper's manager, editor, managing editor, and journalists. In one of those cases Apaza says he will seek prison terms for the family who owns La Patria for harming his dignity.

On a visit to Bolivia this month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, said racist hate speech that incites violence is unacceptable in democratic society and can not be protected by freedom of expression. (See this UN story in English about the visit.)

The leader of Bolivia's Confederation of Press Workers (CTPB), Iván Rodríguez, criticized any attempt to "intimidate" journalists and news media based on the new law, Los Tiempos reports. The CTPB summoned journalists to hand the government 700,000 signatures seeking to modify two of the law's polemic articles, the paper says.

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.