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Dominican Republic28 June 2007

Demonstrators threaten to lynch two journalists amid decline in press freedom

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today at the threats and physical attacks against two journalists by demonstrators on 22 June in Maimón, in the central province of Monseñor Nouel, saying it was astonished by the government’s failure to react to an increase in this kind of incident since the start of the year and to the resulting impact on press freedom.

“The National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) and Reporters Without Borders have registered more than 25 cases of threats of violence against journalists or physical attacks on news organisations since the start of the year, in which those responsible are often policemen, military personnel or municipal employees,” the organisation said.

“Journalists investigating cases of corruption automatically become targets,” Reporters Without Borders added. “The interior and justice ministries should lose no time in taking stock of the situation and in appointing the appropriate judicial and administrative investigations.”

In the Maimón incident, Marino Baéz, the correspondent of the privately-owned daily Listín Diario, and Braddy Abréu, a TV producer with privately-owned Yuna Visión, were attacked and threatened with being lynched by members of two local organisations, Dignity Bloc and Alliance for Struggle and Development (Alud), during a demonstration they had organised to demand fairer distribution of water. Three of their leaders, Rafael Jiménez, Pablo Abad and Silvestre Santamaría, banned the journalists from filming the march and threatened to destroy their vehicle.

The aggressivity shown towards the two journalists recalls the case of TV and radio producer Manuel Vega in the eastern province of Hato Mayor, who last January was threatened with being “burned alive” by drug traffickers (see release of 24 January). Two other journalists based in the same region, Manuel Carrasco and Yoel de los Santos, were the targets of similar warnings and attacks around the same time.

TV reporter Ceynet Sánchez and cameraman Richard de la Cruz of privately-owned Canal 37 and a Listín Diario photographer were roughed up by demonstrators protesting against public transport fare increases near the University of Santo Domingo in May. In the northern city of Puerto Plata, a tourism police officer attacked a TV crew and damaged some of its material.

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