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RSF concerned about freedom of expression statistics and authorities' failure to act

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has learned with concern of the figures compiled by the National Union of Press Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa, SNTP) on cases of threats, intimidation and abusive prosecutions against journalists since the beginning of 2008. Published in the national daily "El Nuevo Diario" on 5 October, the figures unfortunately confirm an increase in violence against the media, which RSF itself had already noted.

According to the SNTP, a total of 32 journalists have been physically attacked or threatened, while 21 others have been subjected to judicial proceedings. More than half of the cases were in the capital, Santo Domingo, or the provinces to the east of the capital.

"Any journalists daring to report on drug trafficking, corruption or conflicts of interest in the activities of a public figure can expect reprisals. In addition, the courts are never as quick to convict a journalist's assailants as they are to summon a columnist or television producer whose reporting is at odds with the authorities," RSF said.

"We call on both the political and judicial authorities to learn the lessons presented by this situation and to set about changing the situation by opening talks with the SNTP and the Association of Dominican Journalists (Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas, CDP)," the press freedom organisation added.

The SNTP stressed the fact that the 7 August murder in Santiago de los Caballeros of Normando García, a cameraman and producer with the Teleunión regional television station, still has not been solved. Although the motive for the murder remains to be determined, his death has added to a toll that highlights the threats to the safety of journalists and the continuing tension between the media and authorities.

Journalists who have been the targets of lawsuits and prosecutions include Alicia Ortega, a producer with the privately-owned SIN Canal 7 national television station, who covered a case of fraud involving the WM Comercializadora Interamericana company. The company's lawsuit accusing her of defamation, "insult" and "attacking its honour" was declared inadmissible by a court on 26 September. Media support for Ortega, whose office was the target of an attack, favoured this outcome.

In a separate case, journalists and members of the public have signed a petition about the lack of judicial response to a physical attack on independent journalist and writer Vianco Martínez, perpetrated by the bodyguards of impresario Saymon Díaz on 23 August.

Journalist representatives have also protested about the many lawsuits that tourism minister Félix Jiménez, who is also a tourism sector entrepreneur, has brought against journalists, including Manuel Quiterio Cedeño, a columnist with the "El Caribe" national daily.

In some instances, the lawsuits have been preceded by death threats or physical attacks, as in the case of Manuel Antonio Vega, a journalist based in the eastern town of Hato Mayor who writes for the "Listín Diario" national daily and produces radio and television programmes. A parliamentarian and a judge's wife are both currently suing him.

One of the most serious cases of threats involves Carlos Corporán, a journalist based in the southern city of San Cristobal who reports for "El Nuevo Diario" and produces the "El Sensor de la Tarde" programme, broadcast on radio Sur 91.9.

RSF is very concerned for Corporán's safety, especially after claims made by Human Rights High Commissioner Domingo Porfirio Rojas Nina on 30 September that a plot is under way to kill the journalist after he revealed allegations about drug trafficking implicating local judges. Corporán is currently receiving police protection but there has been no progress in the investigation into the threats against him.

For further information on the García case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95997

For further information on the Vega case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/80595

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