Dominican Republic

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Journalists have been subjected to a number of limitations and high-handed behavior by government officials, jeopardizing freedom of the press. Of the 14 cases of arbitrary treatment and attacks on reporters and the media reported by the Dominican Journalists Colegio and Union, the beating of Santiago television commentator Estaban Rosario by a public official and leader of the governing party stands out. A number of journalists and commentators have complained of disparaging remarks repeatedly made by President Hipólito Mejía in response to criticism of his government. The most recent of these sharp comments came when he was asked to respond to statements made at this Midyear Meeting. He accused Rafael Molina, editor of Ahora magazine and chairman of the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, of acting as a “Trujillo supporter” and warned that “the only thing left is for the press to want to govern” the country. The bill introduced in the National Congress by the executive branch to amend the existing Law of Expression and Propagation of Ideas of 1962 is currently in a Senate committee. The bill was drafted by a group of media publishers and attorneys specializing in press laws. In the meantime the legislative houses have passed a bill introduced by a senator from the governing party, amending the 1962 law to establish new methods for free access to news sources, as sanctioned in the Constitution. One development causing concern for the economic survival of the media is a tax reform that Congress has approved and sent to the government. It includes a 6% tax on advertising and an advance payment of 1.5% of gross revenues. Still unsolved is the case of columnist Narciso González (nicknamed Narcisazo), who has been missing since May 26, 1994 after harshly criticizing the government and military a few days after that year's general elections. A number of former military officers have been questioned in the case, which is being pursued by an investigating magistrate, but no one has been formally charged.