Dominican Republic

Report to the 74th General Assembly
Oct 19 to 22
Salta, Argentina
The approval of a new law of political parties and groupings that incubates limitations to the right to freedom of expression of citizens, and another bill in Congress to impose percentages and tariffs on advertising in the media, have sound the alarm in the midst of the independent press.

Both initiatives are in addition to the Media Bill, under consideration by a bicameral congressional committee.

The recently promulgated law number 33-18, on political parties, groups and movements, goes beyond its original purpose of regulating the Constitution and the entities, and punishes with fines and imprisonment the "dissemination of negative messages - through social networks, that tarnish the image of the candidates." (44 numeral 6)

This law builds on articles of Law 53-07 - Crimes and High-Tech Crimes, but contradicts principles on freedom of expression and citizens' right to public information.

An appeal of unconstitutionality has already been filed to annul this part of the law, under the argument that in an electoral campaign, citizens have the right to obtain information about candidates, which guarantees transparency, allows oversight of public office and strengthens democracy. Also, in the Criminal Code and other provisions there are already laws that regulate defamation and insult.

The law leaves the way open to countless assumptions to typify or qualify an expression about a candidate, or to measure the degree of damage to the candidate's image, since none of these qualifiers relates to the veracity of the information or invades the realm of privacy. This runs the risk that any citizen who echoes information from a social network will be liable to prison terms of up to two years, plus fines.
The Dominican Newspaper Society (SDD) has taken to Congress its objections to the approval of a General Advertising Law that would set percentages, commissions and tariffs for advertisements in print media, opening the way to direct State intervention as mediator in the framework of negotiations and formulas between clients and the media.

The organization has said that this law would collide with others in force, and could generate conflict and become a straitjacket that would limit advertising strategies in the private sector.

The press maintains its opposition to the approval of several articles of the Media Law that establish prison sentences for certain "verbal crimes" or provisions that would force journalists to inform the authorities about any plans for subversive acts of which they may have any knowledge, and to identify the probable perpetrators - under penalty of being considered accomplices of those illegal acts.

The newspapers presented a draft of their proposal to a bicameral congressional commission to limit grievances to press freedom.

The Dominican College of Journalists (Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas, CDP) submitted a bill to the Senate that modifies Law 10-91 - which created that institution, seeking, among other things, to regulate the exercise of Journalism, the posts that journalists must hold in the media, the responsibilities of the CDP and the requirements to be a member of the institution.

It also includes new chapters in reference to the independence of journalists, the confidentiality of the source, free access to information, the right to identify their work, the right of faithful reproduction, and the rights to reply and respond.

It should be remembered that in 1989 the National Congress declared the aforementioned law unconstitutional, because it stipulated the compulsory membership of journalists.
There have been no aggressions against journalists by public authorities this semester.