Freedom of the Press - Dominican Republic (2003)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 5
Political Influences: 10
Economic Pressures: 18
Total Score: 33

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 69
Religious Groups: Roman Catholic (95 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Mixed (73 percent), white (16 percent), black (11 percent)
Capital: Santo Domingo

Status change explanation: The Dominican Republic's rating moved from Free to Partly Free as a result of increased economic pressures on media outlets.

Press freedom is generally respected and is provided for in the constitution. However, political and economic pressures increased on the media during the year. There is an abundance of privately owned media outlets, including several daily and weekly newspapers as well as numerous radio and television stations, that offer a wide array of coverage. President Hipolito Mejia continues to have a confrontational attitude toward journalists who criticize his administration. Journalists practice self-censorship when their reporting has the possibility of affecting government officials' and media owners' political or economic interests. In one instance, the news director of Radio Marien was arrested for having reported on rice trafficking on the border with Haiti, a sensitive issue for government authorities. In addition, it is generally believed that some major media outlets refrain from serious and sustained reporting of police misconduct, particularly in the case of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings, in order not to hurt the island republic's key tourism industry. Media ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few elites, which affects the diversity of content. The state exerts economic pressure on the media through denial of advertising revenues and imposition of taxes on imported newsprint. Many journalists have complained about the economic situation, which includes low wages that induce some to accept bribes.

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