Journalists rail against anti-racism law

President Evo Morales signed the Law against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination on Oct. 8 to end centuries of discrimination in the country.

The law establishes mechanisms and procedures for the prevention and punishment of acts of racism and all forms of discrimination according to the Constitution and international human rights treaties.

“I have been the object of discrimination, of humiliation. This law seeks to decolonize Bolivia. We have to stop saying ´that damn race,´” Morales said, referring to a slur used against indigenous peoples. “That has to stop. That is not freedom of expression. That is offensive. That is humiliation.”

Morales called racism “the most anti-democratic practice that exists in the world.”

But journalists are demanding the annulment of the law’s 16th and 23rd articles, which establish fines and the suspension of licenses for media who promote or publish racist or discriminatory ideas or comments. Journalists consider these articles an attack on press freedom.

Víctor Vacaflores, director of the nongovernmental Bolivian Chapter of Human Rights, Democracy and Development, said in a televised interview the law only aims to end the practice of racism.

“What we´re asking everyone to do is read the law calmly and you will discover the intention, the will to build another country in harmony,” he said,

But press freedom organizations, including Reporters without Borders, said the regulations implementing the law, which should be ready in 90 days, must include the necessary provisions to avoid any abuse against the media.

It will be necessary “distinguish carefully between media coverage of racist comments or activities, which is legitimate, and media involvement in promoting racism, which is not,” the organization said.

The law also includes the creation of a national anti-racism and anti-discrimination commission with the participation of government agencies, social and indigenous organizations and human rights groups.

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