Censorship in Bolivia

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Censorship in Bolivia can be traced back through years of conflict between Bolivia’s indigenous population and the wealthier population of European descent.[1] Until Bolivia democratized in 1982, the media was strictly controlled.[2] When Evo Morales, the first indigenous person to become president, took office in 2006, the country’s tone changed towards greater respect for freedom of media, speech, information, and indigenous rights. While his administration has taken on measures to decrease censorship, they have been controversial in objectivity and impact.[1]



Film and documentary makers in Bolivia and other Latin American countries struggle to make a living creating film, find a large enough audience for their movies, and make their movies impactful yet non-offensive.[3] In Bolivia and Argentina filmmakers have been forced to flee the country as a result of film and censorship laws.[3] In the extreme, documentary film makers in Bolivia have been arrested for defaming Morales in their films.[4]


Within Bolivia, powerful, wealthy families with connections to the country’s traditional political groups control the majority, around 80 percent, of radio stations although there are still a handful of stations run by local organizations, government, or other groups.[5][6] Independent community stations are about four percent of the total number of radio stations.[6][7] These stations are gaining popularity with Morales as an indigenous president and these stations are overall more popular within indigenous communities.[6] They have a history of serving as a way for marginalized communities to express their identity and dislike of dictators.[6] While legally people are free to talk and discuss any topic, awareness and acceptance of that is taking time to dissipate throughout communities.[6]


Historically, newspapers in Bolivia have been the root and voice of political opposition with the goal of challenging the current and past political leadership.[8] Yet there are many difficulties related to running a newspaper in Bolivia as challenging the political leadership does not lead to high levels of job security and a secure income. Journalists want better working conditions, job training, for media to be free an unrestrained by the government and financial considerations.[9] There is little advertising for newspapers partly because there is readership in a country with low literacy levels.[8] These newspapers have to be careful not to cross the line too much for fear of actions by the state.[8] This environment leads to journalists self-censoring and the proliferation of state run media that is biased towards current political leaders and their parties.[10] While there have been fewer attacks on journalists, there are still many cases that are waiting to work their way through the court system.[7][10] Gradual improvements in internet access will lead to new environments and opportunities for newspapers and media in Bolivia.[7][9][10]


Anti-racism law[edit]

As a result of historically racist communication between Bolivians of European descent and indigenous Bolivians, Morales created an anti-racism law that prevents against publishing racist media with the goal of protecting indigenous communities.[10] Critics of the law say that racism is poorly defined allowing the government to shut down media outlets that publish what the government loosely defines as racist material.[11] This vagueness means that the government is protecting one group of people while oppressing a different group, media outlets.[11] The elite are afraid that this law will result in them losing power and control.[11]

Social media monitoring[edit]

In the past couple of years, Morales has tweeted and talked about the possibility of censoring social media, but he was faced with strong opposition and proceeded to abandon the plan.[12] The idea of this stemmed from tweets that Morales saw as bullying or threatening to his reputation.[12] The opposition’s case was that there are many more possible opportunities for the government to utilize and embrace social media rather than censor it and be afraid of it.[1] They were also afraid that the proposed social media regulation law would resemble the anti-racism bill’s vague and broad language which has forced people to self-censor out of fear that what they were writing would be labeled as racist.[1]

Judicial role[edit]

Over the years as Evo Morales has become prone to censorship and controlling what people say, he has begun to use economic, legal, and political means to take out independent media.[10] While there is freedom of press in the constitution, Morales continues to act against his enemies.[10] Consistently the court system has been overturning charges and accusations put forth by Morales.[7][10]


  1. ^ a b c d "Between Hashtags and Memes, Bolivian Leaders Push for Social Media Regulation". Global Voices Advocacy. 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  2. ^ Whitten-Woodring, Jenifer; Van Belle, Douglas A. (2014). Historical Guide to World Media Freedom: A Country-by-Country Analysis: Bolivia: 1948–2012. CQ Press. pp. 83–86.
  3. ^ a b Ross, Miriam R. (2010-11-01). "Audiovisual laws and legal intervention in South American cinematic culture". International Journal of Cultural Policy. 16 (4): 418–432. doi:10.1080/10286630903383246. ISSN 1028-6632.
  4. ^ "Bolivia | Country report | Freedom of the Press | 2012". freedomhouse.org. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  5. ^ Lupien, Pascal (2013). "The Media in Venezuela and Bolivia Attacking the 'Bad Left' from Below". Latin American Perspectives. 40 (3): 226–46. doi:10.1177/0094582X13476004.
  6. ^ a b c d e Martín, Juan Ramos; Matos, Ángel Badillo (2013-07-01). "Public Policy and Community Radio in Bolivia". Journal of Radio & Audio Media. 20 (2): 251–272. doi:10.1080/19376529.2013.823969. ISSN 1937-6529.
  7. ^ a b c d Whitten-Woodring, Jenifer; Van Belle, Douglas A. (2014). Historical Guide to World Media Freedom: A Country-by-Country Analysis: Bolivia: 1948–2012. CQ Press. pp. 83–86.
  8. ^ a b c O'Connor, Alan (1990). "The Alternative Press in Bolivia and Ecuador: The Examples of Aquí and Punto de Vista". The Howard Journal of Communications. 2 (4): 349–356. doi:10.1080/10646179009359728.
  9. ^ a b "More than half of Bolivian journalists have suffered censorship and self-censorship". Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Bolivia | Country report | Freedom of the Press | 2015". freedomhouse.org. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  11. ^ a b c "Bolivia's Proposed Law Against Racism Raises Censorship Questions | Americas Quarterly". www.americasquarterly.org. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  12. ^ a b CNN, From Gloria Carrasco, for. "Bolivia weighs regulating social media - CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved 2016-11-16.