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Dominican Republic7 October 2008

Surprising silence from authorities about disturbing surge in press freedom violations

Reporters Without Borders has learned with concern of the figures compiled by the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) for cases of threats, intimidation and abusive prosecutions against journalists since the start of the year. Published in the national daily El Nuevo Diario on 5 October, they unfortunately confirm the increase in violence against the media, which the organisation had itself already noted.

According to the SNTP, a total of 32 journalists have been physically attacked or threatened, while 21 others have been the subjects of judicial proceedings. More than half of the cases were in the capital, Santo Domingo, or the provinces to the east of the capital.

“Any journalists daring to report on drug trafficking, corruption or conflicts of interest in the activities of a public figure can expect reprisals, while the courts are never as quick to convict a journalist’s assailants as they are to summon a columnist or TV producer at odds with the authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“We call on both the political and judicial authorities to learn the lessons from this situation and to set about changing it by opening talks with the SNTP and the Association of Dominican Journalists (CDP),” the press freedom organisation added.

The SNTP stressed the fact that the murder of Normando García, a cameraman and producer with regional TV station Teleunión, on 7 August in Santiago de los Caballeros (see 8 August release) still has not been solved. Although the motive remains to be determined, his death has added to a toll that highlights the continuing threats to the safety of journalists and the continuing tension between the media and authorities.

Journalists who have been the targets of lawsuits and prosecutions include Alicia Ortega, a producer with the privately-owned national TV station SIN Canal 7, who covered a case of fraud involving the company WM Comercializadora Interamericana. The company’s lawsuit accusing her of defaming and insulting it, and “attacking its honour” was finally declared inadmissible by a court on 26 September. Media support for Ortega, whose office was the target of bombing, favoured this outcome.

Journalists and members of the public signed a petition about the lack of judicial response to a physical attack on independent journalist and writer Vianco Martínez by the bodyguards of impresario Saymon Díaz on 23 August.

Journalist representatives have also protested about the many lawsuits that tourism minister Félix Jiménez - also a tourism sector entrepreneur - has brought against journalists, including Manuel Quiterio Cedeño, a columnist with the national daily El Caribe.

In some cases, the lawsuits have been preceded by death threats or physical attacks, as in the case of Manuel Antonio Vega, a journalist based in the eastern town of Hato Mayor who writes for the national daily Listín Diario and produces radio and TV programmes. A parliamentarian and a judge’s wife are both currently suing him.

One of the most serious cases of threats involves Carlos Corporán, a journalist based in the southern city of San Cristobal who produces “El Sensor de la Tarde”, a programme on radio Sur 91.9, and reports for El Nuevo Diario.

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned for his safety, especially as human rights high commissioner Domingo Porfirio Rojas Nina claimed on 30 September that a plot is under way to kill Corporán in connection with allegations about drug trafficking implicating local judges. Corporán is currently getting police protection but there has been no progress in the investigation into the threats against him.

In this country
8 August - Dominican Republic
TV cameraman gunned down in Santiago
22 May - Dominican Republic
Journalist’s car fired at in post-electoral tension
9 July - Dominican Republic
Government urged to respond after shooting attack on radio journalist’s home
28 June - Dominican Republic
Demonstrators threaten to lynch two journalists amid decline in press freedom
4 May - Dominican Republic
Gang member gets 30 years for murder of journalist in 2004

in the annual report
Dominican Republic - Annual Report 2008

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