Dominican Republic

Report to the 72nd General Assembly
Mexico City, Mexico
October 13 – 17, 2016


After having achieved that the Constitutional Court overthrew some sanctions affecting freedom of expression and of the press Congress has opened the doors to two judicial initiatives which, on the pretext of readjusting the regulatory order of news media, could reverse this victory.

These are two legislative bills, one of which would regulate the protection of the right to privacy, honor, good name and one's image, and the other that would set definitions of news media and their responsibilities and concerning professional secrecy, which have been subjected to public view.

The Dominican Newspapers Society pronounced on the two bills, considering that "they amount to limitations for freedom of expression" and are "a trend to over-regulation."

One article does not recognize sentence number 0075-16 of the Constitutional Court that declared as unconstitutional Article 48 of the in effect Law 6132 on freedom of expression that made owners of print media civilly responsible for pecuniary penalties in favor of third parties.

This is an aspiration that violates the established constitutional precedent, given that the decisions of the Constitutional Court are binding on public powers, including the National Congress.

In a following article it is said that "in all the cases mentioned in this article once there is established that the publication is defamatory or libelous if it is not proved who is guilty of this the owner of the media shall always be civilly responsible."

Concerning the system of criminal responsibility of the authors of the offenses of defamation and libel Article 30 says that in the print media the one indicated to be the main author shall be "the author who bylines the article or notes that it contains the alleged defamations and libels, together with he or she who authorized the publication. If the article or note is not bylined the one responsible shall be he or she who authorized its publication."

This would be equivalent to annulling the part of the Court's sentence which abolished the "cascade effect" which in the past made the editor of the media outlet the main author of the offense. In addition it overburdens journalists or editors for faithfully quoting those interviewed.

The bill would allow journalists to recognize the truth of the statements of a third party and not to have to verify the content. He or she would be able to establish that the information comes from a true source and there has not been "real malice" in the publication.

Article 27 requires that publications made by the media be "textual quotes" in order to be exempt from the responsibility of news companies, their owners, executives and employees.

The bill would require media editors to "immediately provide to the court or to the Public Prosecutor's Office that ask for them the data that enable the identification of the authors of the publications under their control, including those that are published with pseudonyms. If the editor refuses or cannot comply he or she is considered responsible for impeding the investigation, giving rise against him or her to penalties on court order."

This clause contravenes professional secrecy and turns journalists into collaborators of the investigative and judicial authorities.

The bill on the protection of the right to fame and good name and image is contrary to the constitutional principle on freedom of expression as a fundamental right which imposes limits concerning personal honor, privacy and self-image.

These bills in addition contradict Law 53-07 on Crimes and Offenses of High Technology and a new bill to amend the Penal Code.