Miami (January 22, 2024) – The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed today its concern about the implications for press freedom and confidential sources of information posed by a recently approved law in the Dominican Republic.
The regulation, enacted on January 15 by President Luis Abinader, bears the number 1-24, and regulates the National Intelligence System and the National Intelligence Directorate (DNI, in Spanish). The government claims that the law "represents an important step in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber threats, and corruption," providing the "necessary legal tool," as stated by the Presidential spokesperson in a statement.
Local organizations representing the media and journalists, such as the College of Journalists and the Dominican Society of Newspapers, criticized the ambiguity of some articles in the law and warned about possible negative impacts on press freedom, the right to privacy, and professional secrecy.
For example, Article 11 of the new legislation states that "all State agencies, private institutions, or individuals, without prejudice to the legal formalities for the protection and guarantee of the right to privacy and personal honor, will be compelled to provide the National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) with all information it requires about which there is data or knowledge, related to the powers indicated in Article 9 of this law, for the fulfillment of its intelligence and counterintelligence functions, for the purpose of safeguarding national security."
IAPA President Roberto Rock, director of La Silla Rota, Mexico, said, that "while we recognize the importance of national security laws to protect the interests and institutions of the State against the threat of terrorism, such a broad regulation that forces private institutions, such as the media, to provide all required information, can have negative implications for the confidentiality of journalistic sources and the right to privacy."
Article 8 of the IAPA's Declaration of Salta stipulates, "Laws must guarantee the right to protect the identity of confidential sources of journalists and must allow the use of encryption or ciphering tools. Laws must also respect the right of individuals to anonymity."
Article 26 of the controversial law establishes criminal sanctions, such as imprisonment for two to three years and fines ranging from nine to fifteen minimum public sector wages, against those who "hide information" requested by the DNI.
Carlos Jornet, editor of La Voz del Interior, Argentina, and president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, added, "The broad and ambiguous language of this law, combined with its punitive nature, can encourage self-censorship among journalists and media, with the impact it would have on the right of all Dominicans to access information, a right enshrined in the Constitution."
Jornet emphasized that journalistic professional secrecy is a central piece for those who inform society to carry out their work with freedom and is also a key instrument for citizens to access public interest data.
In an editorial published today, titled "Free Press Demands Greater Protection," Listín Diario stated, "With the deep fears harbored by society about the reach of the dangerous Law 1-24 that clashes with our constitution, the only alternative is to reformulate it in Congress, dismantling the ambiguous articles that, by themselves, open valves to the ignorance or violation of citizen rights enshrined in the Constitution."
The Dominican Republic had advanced in 2023 to the number one position among 22 countries according to the IAPA's Chapultepec Index, a barometer that measures the situation of press freedom in the Americas.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.