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Dominican Republic19 May 2005

Decree bans reporting of natural disasters without prior government permission

A decree that bans news coverage of natural disasters without prior government approval in order to prevent panic and bans the media from "showing disrespect to the authorities and public institutions" is ridiculous and dangerous, Reporters Without Borders said today.

Adopted on 7 May but not released for 10 days, the decree does not specify what sanctions will apply to violators and simply says that a government commission will assess the seriousness of each case.

"The Dominican government’s decree poses a grave danger to press freedom by giving the authorities control over the media," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is not the government’s job to decide for the press what news should be reported. Furthermore, the offences are ill-defined and the penalties are not specified, and this vagueness will open the way for arbitrary decisions."

The text of the decree has sparked an outcry in the Dominican press since finally being published in the daily newspaper El Día on 17 May, and journalists have been voicing their discontent.

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