Dominican Republic | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

39

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

19

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

13

While positive steps toward press freedom were taken in 2007 with both the introduction of a bill to end imprisonment for press offenses and the prosecution of those responsible for the murder of journalists, there was an increase in violence against media workers during the year. The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government mostly respects these rights in practice. Steps to decriminalize libel and insult offenses and replace them with fines were taken in September with the introduction of a bill to parliament by a deputy of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party. The courts also began to take action against the killers of journalists after years of impunity. In April, three men, including a retired army general, were sentenced for the March 1975 murder of Orlando Martinez, editor of Revista Ahora magazine. In May, Vladimir Pujols, the leader of a drug-trafficking gang, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the September 2004 murder of Juan Andujar, the Azua correspondent for Listin Diario. In October, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling ordering the state Transport Reform Office to hand over documents on the construction of the Santo Domingo Metro sought by journalist Huchi Lora. A number of legal experts had doubted that the Supreme Court would rule against the government.

The media are generally free to provide diverse opinions and openly criticize the government. Nevertheless, journalists tend to avoid serious reportage on certain subjects, such as the army, the Catholic Church, and drug smuggling, as well as on topics that could damage the economic or political interests of media owners. While no journalists were killed in 2007, the National Union of Press Workers reported that civil, police, and military authorities, in addition to civilians, assaulted or threatened more than 40 journalists during the year. Particularly worrying were reports that the police and judicial authorities failed to respond to many of the incidents. Among the many cases, media watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontieres reported that radio journalist Hector Abreu’s home in Tamayo was attacked with gunfire on July 6 in a possible response to his reporting on local corruption. Two other journalists narrowly escaped with their lives in Maimon on June 22 when angry demonstrators protesting a lack of drinking water turned on media workers with threats to lynch them. On November 24, freelance photographer and radio journalist Noel Encarnacion was physically assaulted and threatened by six police officers and military personnel while attempting to cover the refugee crisis in San Jose de Ocoa province.

There are eight national daily newspapers and a large number of local publications. The state-owned Radio Television Dominicana operates radio and television services. Private owners operate over 300 AM and FM radio stations and more than 40 television stations, most of them small, regional broadcasters. There are no government restrictions on internet access; however, high costs limited use to just 23 percent of the population in 2007.