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"Equilibrio" editor's murder allegedly work-related; investigation of journalist's 1994 disappearance reopened; "Ahora" director's murderers' sentences upheld

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 4 May 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA welcomes Dominican Republic court rulings on impunity, crimes against journalists
Guilty sentences in two cases, another reopened

MIAMI, Florida (May 4, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today welcomed recent court decisions in the Dominican Republic in the cases of journalists Juan Andújar, Narciso González and Orlando Martínez, murdered (or disappeared) in 2004, 1994 and 1975, respectively.

"We are delighted that the justice system in the Dominican Republic is on the right path, in that it is identifying those who murder journalists, taking them to court and meting out punishment to them," said IAPA President Rafael Molina, referring to the 30-year prison term handed down yesterday (May 3) to the man found guilty of murdering Juan Andújar.

Andújar, host of a program broadcast by Radio Azua and correspondent of the Santo Domingo daily newspaper Listín Diario, was murdered on September 14, 2004 in the southern Dominican Republic province of Azua, as a result of his exposure of local crime and drug trafficking, among whose perpetrators was Vladimir Pujols, now sentenced to the maximum prison term for having shot Andújar to death. Also convicted was Ricardo Agramonte. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

In another action welcomed by the IAPA, National District State Attorney José Manuel Hernández Peguero on April 30 announced the reopening of the case of journalist and university professor Narciso González, known as Narcisazo, who disappeared on May 26, 1994 and whose whereabouts remain unknown. He went missing after criticizing then President Joaquín Balaguer's administration in the magazine Muralla and adding his voice to allegations of fraud in the presidential elections that year.

According to the state attorney, three assistant district attorneys will be handling the review of the case file and compilation of documents and statements by suspects.

Molina, editor of the Santo Domingo daily newspaper El Día, also praised the fact that, 32 years after the murder of Orlando Martínez, on April 16 a higher court upheld a 30-year prison sentence handed down to Mariano Cabrera Durán and Rafael Lluberas Ricart by a district court in 2000. Joaquín Antonio Pou Castro was sentenced to 20 years in prison for complicity in the crime.

Martínez, editor of the magazine Ahora and a stringer for the newspaper El Nacional, was murdered on March 17, 1975 for having criticized President Balaguer's government, according to family members and friends.

In October 2006, also sentenced to prison for 30 years were Octaviano Pérez Félix and Anthony Candelario for the murder on April 13 that year of journalist Johnny Martínez, editor of the magazine Equilibrio and producer of a television program, who was stabbed 22 times. At first the motive was said to have been the theft of his cell phone and handgun, but people close to him alleged he was murdered because of his denunciations of official corruption.

"We are delighted at the firm steps that the Dominican authorities are taking to deal with impunity surrounding crimes against journalists," the IAPA's Molina declared. He recalled that, with the objective of establishing a dialogue between judges and journalists on what action might be taken to reduce such impunity, the IAPA will be holding a Hemispheric Conference on The Judiciary, The Press and Impunity July 18-20 in the Dominican Republic.

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