Freedom of the Press - Dominican Republic (2006)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 7
Political Influences: 16
Economic Pressures: 14
Total Score: 37

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 68
Religious Groups: Roman Catholic (95 percent), other (5 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Mixed (73 percent), white (16 percent), black (11 percent)
Capital: Santo Domingo

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. In March, President Leonel Fernandez signed a ruling providing the mechanisms to implement a freedom of information law passed in 2004. In May, a governmental decree introducing restrictive measures against the media provoked an outcry from journalists who accused the government of paving the way for censorship. The decree banned the media from reporting on natural catastrophes without prior agreement from the authorities, under the guise of avoiding public panic. The decree also functioned as intimidation for those who would show "lack of respect for authorities and public institutions." Less than two weeks later, in response to the strong reaction against it, the president withdrew the decree. The president's legal adviser stated that a team of experts would use 2006 to prepare an alternative decree to regulate television and radio broadcasts.

There was a welcome decrease in the number of attacks on journalists in 2005. One of the only incidents of note occurred in February, when two photojournalists from the Listin Diario and El Caribe newspapers were beaten by officers of the Santo Domingo Metropolitan Transportation Authority (AMET) as they covered a protest by car and motorcycle drivers against AMET's policy of towing away defective vehicles. Both newspapers lodged complaints against the AMET.

There are five national daily newspapers and a large number of local publications. The state-owned Radio Television Dominicana operates radio and television services. Private owners operate over 300 AM and FM radio stations and more than 40 television stations, most of them small, regional broadcasters. Overall, media remain subject to some government influence, particularly through the denial of advertising revenues for controversial publications and the implementation of taxes on imported newsprint. Media generally avoid serious reportage on some subjects, such as the army and the Catholic Church, as well as topics that might adversely affect the economic or political interests of a particular outlet's owners. No government restrictions on internet access were reported in 2005 though only 8 percent of the population was able to take advantage of this due to the high costs involved.

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