Now that the new Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination has been passed in Bolivia, the media have begun to implement self-censuring mechanisms to avoid violations of the law and possible sanctions.
"Be careful with your comments, Professor," was the recommendation made by Unitel TV presenter María Delgado to José Luis Álvarez, an education leader, when he began to use adjectives in his opinions of the government. "I took the initiative and it was also a recommendation made by the channel," Delgado confirmed to La Razón newspaper.
The decision to limit live opinion surveys among the public on television and radio is another preventive action being taken. In addition, printed media that have websites will begin suspending the publication of reader's opinions online.
Yery Guiteras, Press Chief for Red Uno television, admitted that "during surveys, or when interviewees express very strong opinions or statements, we're having to censure them directly". He added that the news will be "controlled in great detail".
Eduardo Pérez, director of Grupo Fides (Fides, Laser 98, Mar and Top radio stations) sent a note to all broadcasters and journalists to take precautions. In addition, on radiofides.com the opinion forums attached to news stories have been suspended. Other printed media such as La Prensa of La Paz, Opinión and Los Tiempos of Cochabamba, have decided to do the same. Notices were put up for website visitors informing them of the decision made.
In the case of a religious media group, Red Cristo Viene, Ricardo Claure indicated that in order to not transgress the Law Against Racism and to avoid accusations of slander regarding any sermons, the network (radio, television and internet) "has changed its programming, has forbidden broadcasting news and documentaries on Biblical prophecies; there will be only worship and praise."
In other media, the measure is sufficiently clear, "We've cut off all spaces in which citizens can give their opinions until the regulations of the new law are clear," said John Arandia, news chief for Cadena A television.
Programs open to the public, such as "Proteste ya" (Protest now), on the Gente radio station, are the most farsighted. Director Johnny Plata reported that prior to beginning programming listeners are being asked to "please not fall into the temptation of issuing opinions or criteria that could be used by those in power to shut down the radio station or imprison the program conductor".
In La Paz, press organizations have collected 15,000 signatures in six days to annul article 16 and modify article 23 of the new Anti-Racism law. Signatures were collected at the Association of Journalists of La Paz (Avenida 6 de Agosto), Plaza del Bicentenario, Calle 21 in Calacoto, Red Uno television station, El Diario newspaper building, Pérez Velazco plaza, and the Salesiana University.
The Inter American Press Association wants to meet with the President, the Church and the Assembly of Representatives of the Inter American Press Association and will arrive on Monday to meet with congress members, the Church, and other press organizations. It has not dismissed the possibility of an encounter with President Evo Morales, indicated Marco Dipp, president of the National Press Association (ANP, in Spanish). Dipp stated that the objective of this international mission is to take steps to request the annulment of article 16 and modifications to article 23.
Actions taken by the media
NEWSPAPERS are limiting the opinions of their readers. Newspapers will filter messages sent in by readers on their websites. In some cases, the possibility for readers to send in their opinions has been deleted altogether. In Santa Cruz, El Deber newspaper announced it would be hiring a legal representative.
RADIO STATIONS are asking listeners to not express any insults and have decided to limit survey taking and the opinions of listeners on the air. Directors are instructing broadcasters and journalists to be more careful during direct interviews, to avoid infractions.
TELEVISION STATIONS are editing or avoiding opinion surveys. On the news press chiefs supervise content and are also avoiding opinion polls. Instructions have been defined for anchors on how to control the course of interviews.