Dominican Republic

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC The Dominican press has issued statements about two developments which have stirred concern among many sectors of society on grounds that they violate the Constitution and national laws. The first worrisome official action is a resolution by the Central Electoral Board, which aims to impose controls on advertising in the campaigns for the May 2000 presidential elections, thus limiting the right of news organizations to publish without being subjected to prior censorship. Another focus of concern is a resolution by the National Commission of Public Performances, which requires newscasters and other journalists to possess a commission-issued credential in order to speak on radio or television. Following are the most noteworthy incidents regarding the practice of journalism in the country: -May 5: Reporter Hector Turbi was arrested and accused by police of instigating a strike. According to police, his backpack contained strike leaflets. He spent a month in prison and was freed without any pending charges. -May 30: Reporter Manuel "Lalito" Gonzalez was shot dead on a street in the southeastern city of Azua. The killing was considered a traffic incident, for which a businessman was charged and jailed. -June 2: El Siglo economics editor Rafael Tomas Jaime was arrested by the police during an investigation into a robbery. The police said that the vehicle used by the thieves looked like Jaime's. The journalist reported police mistreatment and said that even though he identified himself as a journalist, he was handcuffed and put into a cell. The chief of police later released the journalist after offering his apologies. -June 9: The afternoon daily El Nacional complained that the government and armed forces denied journalists access to obtain reaction to a story about the alleged dismissal of the director of the country's military hospital. -July: The National Commission of Public Performances - a government agency - revived past practices when its director, newscaster Ruben Camilo, warned that his institution would prevent newscasters and hosts of any television or radio program from going on the air if they did not hold a credential issued by his agency. He carried out his threat and 24 persons are now prevented from speaking on radio and television by the commission's measure, which has been denounced as unconstitutional because it imposes the licensing of journalists. -July 15: A young amateur cameraman reported police persecution after he filmed three men being arrested and handcuffed by the police. The police later said the detained men had been killed in a shootout in the central city of Moca. The footage filmed by the youth, Ruddy Peralta, triggered a national reaction and police headquarters ordered an investigation which concluded that the three men filmed by the amateur were summarily executed by police officers, who are now in custody awaiting a civilian trial. After this development, the cameraman reported threats and pressures and had to move. The police guaranteed his safety. -September 9: A television cameraman in the eastern city of La Romana, filmed a shootout between criminals and police in which apparently two of the outlaws were shot but not fatally wounded only to be "finished off" later. The police seized his camera and arrested the camerman, who was freed after an angry protest by the Colegio of Journalists and some media. However, his Videotape was returned blank. A police investigation determined that the tape was erased by another broadcaster and cameraman who apparently had ties to the police. In addition to the police statement, the perpetrators of the video erasures were fired by their news organizations, but no other sanctions were applied. -September 15: The Central Electoral Board issued a resolution establishing direct controls on the news media regarding campaign advertising for the presidential elections next year. It imposed the rates and advertising space and the obligation of newspapers and broadcasters to accept advertisements. The measure triggered a widespread, adverse reaction from the media and some political parties, but the board has said its decision is irrevocable. Some news media declared themselves in open rebellion against the measure on the grounds it is unconstitutional. The board said it will not accept this and also said that those who objected could take their case to the Supreme Court. -There has been no progress in the judicial proceedings concerning the 1994 disappearance of columnist Narciso Gonzalez (Narcisazo), in which military and paramilitary groups are implicated. - The murder trial of Ahara magazine editor Orlando Martinez, killed in 1975, is set to renew in October. Implicated in the crime are former military personnel, among them three former generals, who are in prison.