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Proposed election campaign reforms regulating news media threaten freedom of expression, says IAPA

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:

IAPA concerned at proposal on media use in election campaigns

MIAMI, Florida (October 4, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) declared today that freedom of expression would be endangered in the Dominican Republic if proposed election campaign reforms regulating the news media are adopted.

The Central Electoral Board (JCE), which oversees election campaigns, sent the proposed regulations for review by civic sectors that could be affected, in order to have their reactions for consideration during final discussions at the Board's plenary session in mid-October.

The draft regulations would establish that all political parties would have equal access to the news media and that media could not charge higher fees for political announcements than for commercial ads. They also stipulate that political parties and their candidates should have full and non-discriminatory use of all news media outlets as well as setting forth a series of requirements for the publication of survey and opinion poll results and the prohibition of media encouragement of voter abstention.

A number of media outlets and pro-press freedom organizations in the country have voiced criticism of the plan, saying if passed it would violate constitutional guarantees.

IAPA President Rafael Molina and Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, warned the Electoral Board to use caution so its measures do not violate the constitution.

"Any violation of the Constitution or the fundamental principles underpinning freedom of expression would place the Dominican Republic on the undesirable list of countries lacking full freedom of the press," declared Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre.

Molina, editor of the newspaper El Día in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, added that the issue would be raised at the IAPA's General Assembly, to be held in Miami, Florida, October 12-16 with the participation of more than 500 editors, publishers and journalists from newspapers throughout the Western Hemisphere.

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