Bolivia’s Leftist Government Moves against Free Speech with “Professional Malpractice” Law

KARINA MARTIN–Bolivia has drafted a law that would allow journalists to be tried for “professional malpractice,” which the country’s National Associated Press has subsequently denounced as threatening freedom of expression.

President of the Senate José Alberto Gonzales said the change to the law was analyzed by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, which changed the term “medical malpractice” to “professional malpractice.” The term would apply to far more than just doctors.

The Bolivian Associated Press said the change in the law — which calls for punishment against “recklessness, negligence, malpractice, non-observance of protocols, regulations or duties inherent to the exercise” — encourages self-censorship.

“The project represents a historical setback that would sanction progressive thinking and the advancement of science itself,” the organization said in a statement.

The change “would have dire consequences in the journalistic field where self-censorship would be imposed, while all citizens of Bolivia would be subject to prior censorship in the dissemination of ideas and opinions,” the statement added.

The organization also said that restricting economic or administrative functions — or otherwise choking the possibility for freedom of expression, the dissemination of opinions or news — would violate Article 19 of Bolivia’s Human Rights Declaration of 1948. The article grants every individual the “right to freedom of speech and expression.”.

The Bolivian Associated Press reminded lawmakers of an “elementary principle” in the application of laws: “The constitution trumps the proposed Penal Code.”

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