Dominican Republic

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Report to the Midyear Meeting Caracas, Venezuela March 28 - 30, 2008 This period has featured increased attempts to get the independent press to exercise self-censorship when the image or interests of certain groups or individuals are involved. Government officials and private citizens have been calling up media outlets, not to exercise their right of reply or to provide relevant information, but to issue threats. In some cases they have made good on these threats by pressing charges for defamation, though most of these cases have been dismissed by the courts. The Dominican Journalists Association (CDP) and the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) issued a joint statement warning of this trend. “Some officials, groups and people in society do not understand or respect the role of journalists,” read the statement, “and therefore they attempt to restrict these rights through their actions, threats and assaults, though this does not necessarily mean that the government has adopted a clear position against freedom of speech.” In his dissenting opinion to the conviction of the newspaper Listín Diario and former editor Miguel Franjul, Judge Francisco Ortega warned of the negative impact that such cases could have on the independence of the media. Meanwhile, in an important development, the Supreme Court sentenced Joaquín Antonio Pou Castro to the maximum of 30 years in prison for the murder of journalist Orlando Martínez, 32 years after the fact. Pou Castro had previously been sentenced to 20 years as an accessory to the crime, though he was actually involved in planning the murder. The CDP and the SNTP said in their joint statement that they have received complaints from journalists Nuria Piera, Manuel Quiterio Cedeño, Miguel Franjul and Carlos Mercado that they have been subjected to pressure and assaults in the course of their work. Manuel Quiterio Cedeño wrote a number of articles for El Caribe newspaper between September 2007 and February 2008, which cast a critical eye on tourism in the Dominican Republic. Miguel Franjul resigned as editor of Listín Diario, due to what he described as government attempts to pressure the newspaper’s ownership to fire him.