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Judge orders seizure of media investigation materials

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an 18 September 2008 IAPA press release:

Court ruling on investigative reporting in Dominican Republic raises concern

Miami (September 18, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concern at a judge's decision in the Dominican Republic that ordered a police raid and seizure of documents and unedited videotapes belonging to a news media investigation.

National District Criminal Court Judge Felipe Molina Abreu ordered the confiscation of materials which included compact discs and lab test results from milk produced by Lácteos Dominicanos (Ladom). It all was part of an investigation by reporters Nuria Piera and Luis Eduardo Lora into the quality of milk being distributed to local schools.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, declared, "We fear court actions of this kind set a bad precedent because they could force investigative reporters to resort to self-censorship out of fear they will lack the protection needed to carry out their work and also for their sources whose information is vital to making charges and claims in the public's interest."

Piera, a television reporter, and Lora, who hosts a radio program, broadcast the results of a laboratory test which concluded that Ladom-produced milk did not meet the required protein level. This angered the dairy company, which called on the journalists for a retraction and, when they refused, filed a lawsuit.

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, added that the IAPA would continue to keep a close watch on developments in the case and said he trusted that the court's ruling would be overturned.

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