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    Posted October 14, 2010 by
    Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

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    Protests Continue in Bolivia Over Controversial Racism Law


    Bolivians marched on Wednesday in Santa Cruz and on Thursday in Cochabamba, in support of members of the media who are protesting two articles of the new "Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination" passed by the Bolivian government in early October.


    Articles 16 and 23 of the law establish sanctions, closures, and possible imprisonment for members of the media who publish or broadcast any racists or discriminatory statements, even when made by third parties. Media owners would be liable for any statements made by their employees if they make them while on the job.


    The public and the media fear these portions of the law will be used by the government to silence any remaining voices of opposition.


    In Santa Cruz, the march ended at the main plaza in front of the cathedral where  members of the press gave speeches and the public chanted slogans such  as "freedom of expression", "no to the muzzle law", "democracy is dead", "don't muzzle our children's future" and "life is nothing if liberty is lost."


    One journalist hung his microphone from a noose. It said PRENSA Q.P.D. which means "The PRESS - R.I.P. (Rest In Peace)"


    Numerous members of the media and public wore "muzzles" over their mouths to symbolize their rejection of the two controversial articles of the law.


    Members of media organizations, their families, radio and TV,  civic organizations, universities, and the general public are taking part in protests, which are ongoing throughout the country.


    People wore t-shirts that read "Freedom of Expression" and "NO to the Muzzle Law" as the law is now being called "la ley mordaza", in Spanish.


    A black ribbon drawn and painted on several flags and signs is being used by various TV stations in place of their logos  on-screen throughout the day and on the covers of several national  newspapers.


    Throughout the country hundreds of people have lined up to sign notarized ledgers.  Journalists hope to collect 1 million signatures  to force a national public referendum to overturn article 16 and make changes to article  23. In La Paz over 10,000 signatures were collected on the first day and ledgers are being requested in distant provinces and rural areas where the public wants to show its support as well.


    Attorneys in Santa Cruz called for one minute of silence today "to mourn the death of democracy in Bolivia."


    Overnight dozens of taxi drivers expressed their support for the media by driving around the plaza and honking their horns.


    The tent in the main plaza, in which journalists  who are on hunger strike have been living for the past 11 days, is filled with mattresses, clothing and bottles of water. Some  have been taken out of the strike for medical care as their health detriorates, but others  appear immediately to take their places. There are between 25 and 28 journalists  at any given point in time who are on hunger strike.


    More protest activities are planned in Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz, Sucre, Potosi, La Paz, Tarija, and Cochabamba.

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