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Senate constitutional committee approves new law with two controversial articles

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, October 7, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed "its full support" for news media outlets and organizations in Bolivia that in recent days have been staging public demonstrations throughout the South American country in demand for greater guarantees of press freedom, which they say has been infringed by an anti-racist law expected to be passed this week.

The Law against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination was adopted on Tuesday (October 5) by the Senate's Constitution Committee and is due to go before the full Senate today or tomorrow, having already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies. It includes two controversial articles – number 16, which would withdraw licenses from media that disseminate racist ideas, and number 23, which says that when such an offense is committed by an employee of a media outlet "he or she shall not claim immunity or any exemption whatsoever."

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre welcomed the strong action in defense of press freedom and the public's right to know that the Bolivian press is taking through professional organizations, news media, labor unions and journalists in general.

Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, declared, "We are certain that the government will not be able to ignore this demand, because this so important law against racial discrimination and one that is needed for the full exercise of democracy has no reason to engage in serious attacks upon the public's right to know, foster prior censorship or make media responsible for remarks that news sources may make."

For his part, the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, deplored the fact that "freedom of the press is made questionable by both this legislation and others recently passed" – a reference to the Electoral Law that makes it an offense for news media to publish interviews and opinions that favor candidates.

"This pattern of conduct by the Bolivian government which appears to take pleasure in undermining press freedom in every new law is a matter of concern," Rivard added.

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