Freedom of the Press 2011 - Dominican Republic
|Publication Date||14 September 2011|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2011 - Dominican Republic, 14 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e70938e28.html [accessed 14 July 2014]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 7
Political Environment: 20
Economic Environment: 13
Total Score: 40
The law guarantees freedom of the press, and the media is vibrant and diverse. The government generally respected press freedom in practice. The new constitution, proclaimed in January 2010, protects journalists' rights to keep sources confidential.
Defamation is a criminal offense punishable by fines and jail time. In June, Dominican Agrarian Institute (IAD) director Héctor Rodriguez Pimentel threatened to file defamation lawsuits against advertisers for investigative journalist Alicia Ortega's program on the television channel Noticias SIN. The program had previously linked Pimentel to cases of corruption. After strong media support for Ortega, Pimentel withdrew his threats against advertisers. A privately-owned television station, Canal 53, was forced off the air in March 2010 after the host of one of its programs called government officials "thieves" and "protectors of drug traffickers" on the air. The station, which had been broadcasting for more than 20 years, was also accused of illegally using two terrestrial broadcast frequencies by the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL), which is charged with regulating the media. INDOTEL claimed that Canal 53 could continue broadcasting by cable, but the station's owner said the authorities had confiscated its cable transmission equipment. Station owners filed a suit against INDOTEL, but the case remained unresolved at year's end. Other channels experienced interruptions in their broadcasting transmissions during the period prior to the May elections, possibly due to coverage that was critical of the government.
Attacks and intimidation against the press by both state and private actors are an occasional problem. In June 2010, the host of a television panel discussion show on a privately owned channel was shot in the neck and jaw as he arrived at work. He was hospitalized and lost some vision in his left eye, but his injuries were not fatal. The gunmen were not identified and the motive was unknown. In August 2008, a cameraman at a Santiago-based television station was shot and killed along with a friend. The cameraman, Normando García, had been receiving anonymous threats for several months and his car had been set on fire a few weeks prior to the murder. In 2010, businessman Jaime Flete García (no relation) was charged with hiring two hit men to kill Normando García, who had produced incriminating footage of Flete García assaulting a client in a dispute over money, and had testified against Flete García in court.
The Dominican Republic has several daily newspapers, more than 200 radio stations, and many terrestrial and cable television stations serving its population of a little over 10 million people. Ownership of many of these stations and the country's newspapers is concentrated in the hands of a few powerful individuals and companies. Self-censorship as a result of pressure from owners due to their political and economic interests is reportedly a concern. A leading investigative daily, Clave, closed in August 2010, after reportedly receiving threats. There are two state-owned television stations and one state-owned radio station. Approximately 40 percent of the population accessed the internet during the year. There are no reports of internet censorship, and there are several online news sources in English and Spanish.