Miami, June 23 The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern this Thursday about several bills in the Dominican Republic that insist on the criminal nature of defamation and, in its opinion, “overprotect” leaders from criticism.
The IAPA, based in Miami, sees “contrary to international standards” a reform of the Dominican Penal Code that punishes offenses against the president, ministers, legislators and diplomatic representatives with prison.
In his opinion, this measure distances the country from those who promote eliminating the crime of contempt to “avoid privileges” of the authorities over citizens.
Contempt, eliminated in many Latin American countries, is also contemplated in Law 6132 on Freedom of Expression and Dissemination of Thought.
The IAPA also criticized the bill against cybercrime presented to Congress by the government of President Luis Abinader on June 14.
The new project increases the prison sentence for defamation from one to four years and maintains the crime of insult with a fine of 500 minimum wages, without jail. The bill requires service providers to remove material deemed discriminatory within 24 hours, to avoid fines.
IAPA President Jorge Canahuati lamented that the Dominican Republic is “turning away from press freedom.”
Canahuati added that, on the other hand, defamation crimes should be decriminalized when they refer to public figures and eliminate the “privileges of the powerful, not to empower them.”
The president of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, stressed that the Dominican authorities should adapt national legislation to the “criteria of inter-American jurisprudence.”
He added that “legislating blindly carries the risk of going back decades and falling back into the authoritarianism of the past, always ready to curtail freedom of the press and the independent and critical work of the media and journalists.”
Both recalled that Abinader signed, in October 2020, the Declaration of Salta on Principles of Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age, which highlights the attitude that governments must have to protect freedoms in the digital sphere.
Last year, the Dominican Republic climbed ten steps in the Chapultepec Index, a comparative measure of press freedom in 22 countries in the Americas, making it a success story on the continent.
But now IAPA officials lamented that the current Dominican leaders “deconstruct” the progress made in recent years in the country.