The status of press freedom was adversely affected during this period by the court-ordered takeover of several media companies. As a result of the failure of the bank Banco Intercontinental, and in a move of dubious validity, the government invoked on May 15 the law that allows for the seizure of property tied to the bank and its owners, including four newspapers (among them are IAPA members Listín Diario, Última Hora and El Expreso), four television channels, a cable television company and more than 70 radio stations. The authorities in charge of the takeover dismissed the editor of Listín Diario. As a result, the editors of Última Hora, El Financiero and El Expreso resigned in protest. The government appointed replacements in their positions. Última Hora and El Financiero were subsequently shut down for alleged financial problems. The Dominican government accused the main stockholders of these newspapers of a major money-laundering fraud and thus justified the takeover of the newspapers. Even though these news outlets were not initially used for obvious political purposes, subsequent developments have caused great concern: the use of a channel and a radio station, both of which had been taken over, to publicize political activity in favor of official policy; suppression of radio programs of opposition politicians on these stations; massive layoffs, including reporters, at some of these companies under the pretext of economic restructuring; reports by columnists and reporters from these outlets of censorship by the new management; and uncertainty as to the future of these companies, now under court proceedings with no end in sight. The takeover of the publishing company Editora Listín Diario has been described by the lawyers of Mr. Báez Figueroa as an attack on free speech. They are asking that the company be returned to its owner. In this regard, an appeals judge ruled that the newspaper companies must be returned immediately to Báez Figueroa, but this ruling was ignored by the authorities, which everyone agrees constitutes contempt of court. However, subsequent rulings have upheld the takeover once again. While this matter is being debated in court, the Editora Listín Diario publishing company, directed and managed by the government, continues to publish Listín Diario and El Expreso. In August 2003, at the request of Báez Figueroa’s lawyers, the IAPA commissioned the chairman of its Committee on Freedom of the Press, Rafael Molina Morillo, and the chairman of its Legal Affairs Committee, Héctor Dávalos, to go and meet with the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic and other authorities. They formally expressed the concern of the IAPA over the case, as well as the Association’s wishes that due process be upheld and that freedom of the press be ensured at all times. The IAPA committee members also met with Dominican President Hipólito Mejía; Jorge Subero Isa, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; and Public Prosecutor Máximo Aristy Caraballo, and requested their assurance that the law be strictly enforced. The judicial proceedings in the case of Editora Listín Diario have thus far continued in accordance with the appropriate procedural deadlines. Other cases: - Columnist Marino Zapete was arrested on June 11 by agents from the National Investigation Department (DNI), the primary state security agency, after reporting on the construction of summer residence for President Hipólito Mejía in the mountains in the central part of the country. Zapete was interrogated and kept in custody for one day before being released without charges. - On July 10, Farud Garib Arbaje, the governor of San Juan de la Maguana province in the southwestern part of the country, ordered the shutdown of a radio talk show produced by José Miguel Adames Sánchez, a journalist and councilman for the governing party, after Adames Sánchez harshly criticized the reelection campaign of President Hipólito Mejía. Adames Sánchez brought his case before an appeals court in his province, and the judge ordered that the program be allowed to resume. - On July 26, two radio personalities and commentators, Horacio Emilio Lamoine and Carlos Martínez, were arrested by soldiers from the army and transferred to the headquarters of the National Investigation Department (DNI), a state security agency, in the capital. On their program, at a radio station in Montecristi province in the northwest part of the country, they had conducted a survey of listeners pitting President Hipólito Mejía and Satan against each other for the elections in May of next year. The two commentators were under arrest for three days and then released without charges.