Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Press freedom continued to erode during 2003 as the country's political and economic situation worsened. A major case of bank fraud surfaced in May, further upsetting the economy and disaffecting the public. The collapse of Banco International (Baninter) and the apparent large network of its money-laundering operations, including alleged connections with a wide spectrum of political leaders, caused the authorities to seize the media holdings also owned by the president of Baninter, Ramon Baez Figueroa. Through the media empire Listin Group, Mr. Baez owned controlling shares in the country's oldest and most prestigious newspaper, the Listin Diario, 3 other newspapers, 4 television stations, and 92 radio stations. Authorities immediately fired the editor of Listin Diario, replacing him with a former spokesperson for the ministry of agriculture. In protest, the senior editors of the other three newspapers resigned; these three newspapers have since closed due to financial problems. Media advocacy groups allege that the content and orientation of the remaining media have significantly changed, be it through softer headlines and editorials or the slanted endorsement of official policy. Also in 2003, five journalists were interrogated, detained, or publicly accused of defamation by government officials. Another journalist, Julio Gomez, had his car set on fire after a previous attempt by unknown assailants to burn down his house. Gomez, who is a correspondent for several media and radio stations, believes the attacks are connected to his reporting on discrepancies in the government Public Transportation Vehicles Renovation Plan.