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Three journalists harassed after reporting on senator under investigation for alleged fraud

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 30 March 2009 IAPA press release:

IAPA protests intimidation of journalists in Dominican Republic

Miami (March 30, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed repudiation of attempts in the Dominican Republic to intimidate journalists and urged the Congress there to investigate the matter. The journalists said the attempts were made by persons associated with a local senator.

According to the journalists concerned - María Isabel Soldevilla of the Santo Domingo newspaper Listín Diario, Margarita Carodero, of the Web site, and Norma Sheppard of Radio Mil radio station in San Pedro de Macorís - two men claiming to be agents of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) angrily rebuked them over their news reports in which they said that Senator Alejandro Williams, who represents the San Pedro de Macorís electoral district, was understood to be under investigation for alleged fraud in the United States.

The journalists complained that in separate incidents as a result of their reports they were being hounded both in their workplaces and in their homes.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, protested the attempts at intimidation, which he said "without doubt seek to make the reporters resort to self-censorship" and he called on the Congress to look into the matter and apply its internal rules "which no doubt safeguard freedom of the press and respect for the work of journalists."

Senator Williams also has a home in New York, where he owns a dental clinic whose activity is said to be under investigation for alleged fraud. One of the men who pretended to be FBI agents and harassed the journalists was identified as the senator's bodyguard.

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