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IAPA condemns journalist's murder

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, August 3, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has condemned the murder of Dominican Republic journalist José Agustín Silvestre and has appealed to officials to order an immediate, in-depth investigation to determine the motive for the assassination and bring those responsible to justice.

Silvestre, 59, was kidnapped yesterday morning in the southeastern province of La Romana by four men in a SUV. His body was found several hours later with two gunshot wounds, the local media reported. His sister, who was near Silvestre when he was abducted, said she believes he stood up to his assailants and that one of them then shot him.

Silvestre, known as "Gajo", hosted the program "La Voz de la Verdad" (The Voice of Truth), which aired Monday through Friday at 2:30 p.m. on Cana TV, and published a twice-monthly magazine with the same name.

After reporting alleged ties between local public prosecutor José Polanco and drug traffickers he was held in prison for several days in May and charged with libel, then released after posting bail.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared that, although the reasons for the murder were not immediately known, "the authorities must pay special attention to this crime and investigate it transparently and with diligence until those responsible for it have been identified."

Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, publicly expressed concern over and condemnation of Silvestre's murder, which is in addition to the 19 already committed in the Americas this year. "Sadly," Rivard said, "this is one of the most tragic years for journalists."

The news of Silvestre's murder raised angry reactions among his colleagues and yesterday afternoon the Attorney General's Office announced the creation of a special investigative commission.

Silvestre was known for his ongoing and controversial claims about drug trafficking in La Romana on several radio and television programs and in his magazine. On the cover of one issue of the magazine, he accused Polanco of nepotism.

The Web site http:\\www.santiagodigital.net said that, according to unofficial information, last Saturday Silvestre gave details during a program about the alleged killers of a pub owner and others in La Romana, "and since that day . . . he's had to stay in the city of Santiago because he was being pursued."

The IAPA officers also brought up the murders of Dominican journalists Johnny Martínez in 2006, Juan Andújar in 2004 and Luis Orlando Martínez in 1975, cases that ended with convictions, as opposed to the case of Narciso González whose whereabouts have remained unknown since 1994.

In June, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held public hearings on the González case. During the IAPA's Hemispheric Conference: Universities on Public Policies to Combat Impunity - to be held in Puebla, Mexico, August 25-26 - the Ibero-American University (UNIBE) of Santo Domingo will present its study on "The Impact of the Narciso González Case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and its Influence on Public Policy at the National Level," which will include recommendations for legal reforms.
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