Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Government Discusses Censorship, Denies "Gag" law

After President Morales made remarks on Monday to the effect that his government is considering a
new law regarding the ability of the press to "lie" most national newspapers decried a perceived move towards censorship. President Morales' press secretary Iván Canelas, who was himself a journalist, clarified that the government is not seeking to censor the press but rather to establish rules and norms so that the press "doesn't lie". Canelas said, "We have decided to fight against lies and information manipulation by the press because it's clear that this not only hurts journalism but all of society. We believe that we have to work on a new law based on articles 106 and 107 of the Constitution." These articles of the new Constitution garantee freedom of expression without any censorship in Bolivia but also state that the press respect "truth and responsibility" and that these attributes be "exercized under the ethical norms and self-regulation of the journalism organizations and press by their own law".

Canelas concluded that any new laws would be made "in concensus, primarily with journalists and with professional organizations and unions. Obviously without throwing out the presence of businessmen." Canelas denied the press' speculations about a so called gag law and affirmed the right of free speech but left it unclear as to what exactly the government plans to do to ensure that the press tells the truth or who decides what is true. The Bolivian press is consists of over 20 different urban newspapers and many radio stations and has a relatively high degree of freedom of speech. President Morales has lashed out at journalists from time to time, once calling the entire profession his "enemies" but has not personally taken very many substantive steps to limit the freedom of the press up to this point which is why the president's talk of a new journalism law drew criticism from most of the nation's media outlets.

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