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Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Dominican Republic

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2005
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Dominican Republic, February 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c566d3c.html [accessed 26 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Dominican Republic suffered an acute economic and social crisis in 2004, with violent crimes occurring almost daily. Criminal gangs escalated attacks against journalists who denounced their activities.

On September 14, two gunmen on a motorcycle attacked two journalists who had reported on a criminal gang in the town of Azua, 75 miles west of the capital, Santo Domingo. Juan Emilio Andújar Matos, the host of Radio Azua's weekly show "Encuentro Mil 60" (Encounter 1060) and a correspondent for the Santo Domingo-based daily Listín Diario (Listín Daily), was shot in the head and died shortly after. Juan Sánchez, a correspondent for the Santo Domingo-based dailies El Nacional (The National) and Hoy (Today), escaped on his motorcycle and took refuge in the provincial governor's offices.

Jorge Luis Sención, a reporter with Enriquillo Radio in the town of Tamayo, witnessed the attack, and he was shot minutes later. He later had to have his right forearm amputated. After Andújar's murder, Sánchez went into hiding, and Sención sought police protection. At year's end, both Sánchez and Sención remained in hiding. Sánchez told CPJ that he is trying to leave the country.

On September 29, gunmen ambushed Euri Cabral, a well-known journalist with the radio station Z-101 and a friend of newly elected President Leonel Fernández, who began his term in August after winning elections in May. (Fernández also served as president from 1996 to 2000.) The attackers blocked Cabral's car and fired several shots, shattering the vehicle's windows. Cabral and a friend escaped unharmed. As one of the hosts of the popular morning radio show "El Gobierno de la Mañana" (The Government of the Morning) on Z-101, and of the Canal 23 TV show "Temas del Día" (Today's Issues), Cabral helped to bring police and government corruption in the administration of then President Hipólito Mejía to light. In November, Cabral left the country for the United States. On November 26, Hoy quoted Fernández as saying that he had advised Cabral to leave the country with his family.

In September 2004, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the government must temporarily return control of the daily Listín Diario, which was previously owned by the bankrupt bank Baninter, to the bank's owners. In 2002, the Dominican Central Bank had pumped hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars into Baninter to keep it afloat; however, in May 2003 authorities seized its assets, including Listín Diario. Asset laundering charges were brought against Baninter's owners, who, before the bank's collapse, had built the country's largest media group.

After taking over the newspaper, the government appointed a management team loyal to Mejía. According to many Dominican journalists, after the takeover, Listín Diario became the Mejía government's mouthpiece and, in the run-up to the May 16 presidential election, promoted his re-election campaign. According to the Inter-American Press Association, Listín Diario also offered generously low rates to advertisers, undercutting competing newspapers. Government officials rejected the allegation.

Dominican journalists say that the economic crisis has threatened press freedom by reducing advertising and causing media closures, unemployment, and decreased salaries. In addition, the bankruptcy of several large banks that owned news organizations has reduced available advertising. According to some journalists, coverage of financial scandals, including Baninter's collapse, was timid and minimal. Other journalists voiced concern over the concentration of media in the hands of financial groups that are seen as exclusively interested in profitability, while others said that the media's politicization and partisanship deprived the public of objective information.

Journalists also cite a lack of timely access to government information as a serious problem. In July, Mejía signed into law an access to information bill that was immediately tested when newspapers formally requested that the National Police disclose the names of police officials accused of misappropriating stolen cars. The National Police refused, saying there was an ongoing investigation. The daily El Día (The Day) appealed to the Ministry of the Interior, which rejected the request on the same grounds. Prosecutors eventually disclosed the names of seven police officers involved.


2004 Documented Cases – Dominican Republic

SEPTEMBER 14, 2004
Posted: September 16, 2004

Juan Emilio Andújar Matos, Radio Azua and Listín Diario
KILLED – CONFIRMED

Juan Sánchez, El Nacional and Hoy
Jorge Luis Sención, Enriquillo Radio
ATTACKED

Andújar was ambushed and killed by gunmen this week, moments after a radio broadcast in which he reported on a bloody crime wave that pitted gang members against police in the southern town of Azua, according to local news reports.

Andújar was host of Radio Azua's weekly show "Encuentro Mil 60" ("Encounter 1060") and a correspondent with the Santo Domingo-based daily Listín Diario. Sención, a radio reporter who witnessed the attack, was later shot in a second ambush and lost his right forearm to amputation.

The attack comes amid an escalating crime wave in Azua, 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of the capital, Santo Domingo. Several Dominican journalists who have reported on the crime surge have been threatened with death and are receiving police protection, according to press reports.

Andújar left the station around 9:40 a.m. with colleague Juan Sánchez, a correspondent with the Santo Domingo-based dailies El Nacional and Hoy. During the show, the reporters discussed the killing that morning of four reputed gang members in a gun battle with police, according to press reports. Andújar and Sánchez, as well as other journalists from Azua, had previously received death threats for their comments on the crime wave.

As the reporters were about to drive their motorcycles away, two motorcyclists shot at them, hitting Andújar in the head as Sánchez took refuge in a nearby fire station, the Dominican press reported. Andújar died an hour and a half later in a local hospital.

Sención, a reporter with Enriquillo Radio in the town of Tamayo, saw the ambush and aided Andújar in the immediate aftermath, according to a local press account. Later that morning, while with his pregnant wife, Sención was ambushed by the same gunmen. He was hospitalized under tight security.

Dominican authorities in Santo Domingo dispatched what was described as an elite police unit and two helicopters to patrol the town. A man believed to be one of the two assailants was killed by police in a gun battle on September 15; the other assailant was not immediately captured.

Andújar, a respected journalist with 20 years of experience, was also a professor at the Technology University of Azua president of an environmental organization. A colleague said he was 49.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2004
Posted: October 15, 2004

Euri Cabral, Canal 23 and Zeta-101
ATTACKED

Cabral, a well-known journalist and friend of Dominican President Leonel Fernández, was attacked in the capital, Santo Domingo, after leaving work.

Cabral told CPJ that he had finished recording his daily television show at Canal 23 and was driving home around 8:30 p.m. when two gunmen on a motorcycle fired several shots, shattering his car's windows. Another car blocked Cabral's path but he was able to drive away and take refuge at a nearby gas station, where he called the police. He and a passenger escaped harm.

As a host of the popular morning radio show "El gobierno de la mañana" (The Government of the Morning) on Zeta-101, and on his television show "Temas del día" (Today's Issues) on Canal 23, Cabral aggressively denounced police and government corruption under the previous administration of President Hipólito Mejía.

Cabral told CPJ he has no proof of who was behind the attack, but suspects it may have been people displeased by his reporting of official corruption in the Mejía administration.

After the attack, Cabral and his family were placed under police protection.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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