The Dominican Republic has a new constitution. Some of it allows for more protection for news organizations.
The country has a problem, however because hundreds of laws are on the books that don’t conform to the new basic law. (By the way, this is the 33rd constitution for the DomRep. That means the country has had more constitutions than any other. Not good for political, social or economic stability.)
This week President Leonel Fernandez received five legislative proposals to reform and update many of the laws relating to the media.
Legislators say the new legislation incorporates “modern trends in freedom of expression.” (Not fully explained.) Also included were recommendations to change the Freedom of Access to Public Information. Some changes as to what information is covered by the law is part of the proposed changes.
(FYI: The Dominican Republic is one of the early adopters of Freedom Of Information laws after the United States and Canada. The original law provided for so many loopholes, that many in the Dominican media said it was no better than having no law at all. Civic groups and investigative journalists, however, disagreed, calling the original law a major step forward.)
Once the legislation is proposed to the Dominican Congress changes are expected. Some congressmen want to strengthen the freedom of access to public information law. Others want to weaken it.
And still others want to reduce public access to information on use of funds in government. (Corruption and misuse is a major problem in the DR. Efforts to publicize how public funds are used usually runs up against political and business interests that are not interested in letting people know how public money is really spent.)
Overall, the basic reports from the DomRep are that the new constitution provides for more protections for the news media. (Unfortunately, other portions of the constitution remove some rights people have had in the past and deals harshly with gays, abortions and immigrants.)
And it is too bad that searches for news items about this major change in an important partner in the Caribbean end up showing only stories from partisan groups on the abortion-ban part of the constitution.