Decriminalize libel movement has legs

A while back I posted a piece on how the congress of the Dominican Republic was pushing through a packet of bills that would make it publishing or airing offensive expressions against the top government leadership  and members of congress a criminal offense with imprisonment of two to three years and large financial penalties.

And I cannot believe the response it got from journalists in the DR. It confirms what I said about how the journalists in the Dominican Republic fight fiercely for their rights.

The comments also showed the frustration with some of the media outlets and the frustration of waging a battle against entrenched interests in a country known for its corruption. (Ranking at Transparency International of 129 of 186 countries rated. BTW, that is the same ranking as Honduras, the Philippines, Syria and Armenia. All countries well-known for high levels of corruption.)

The comments were interesting:

  • If that bill goes through they will have to start building new jails, many more and prepare for what’t to come, because we won’t fighting, This is something that they are doing out of fear, but this time, for the first time in decades we will not let them pay us with circus and bread.
  • I live in Dominican Republic, plenty of local groups are protesting against this and the new huge taxes the government has just approved, but it seems that most of the local press is being paid and pushed by the government to avoid commenting about what’s happening.
  • The local press appears to be ran by the same people governing this poor country. They can’t keep educated young professionals from speaking our minds and for trying to defend ourselves from the abuse of this outrage.

The last comment offers hope. Young people are using new media to demonstrate and push back against the government and its attempts to silence criticism of the government.

The legislation in the Dominican congress has the country moving in a direction opposite of its Caribbean neighbors and with democracies around the world.

Unfortunately the issue is not resolved. The Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute have campaigns against criminalizing libel.

The battle in this area can directly affect journalists from other countries. The way I read the proposed DR legislation, ANY criticism of government leaders (as listed in the bill) could lead to criminal charges. That means anyone from anywhere who wrote of  possible corruption or poor performance by a Dominican official in any publication (or website) could be arrested if he/she stepped foot in the DR.

Not exactly a law that helps support a fragile democracy.

The journalists in the DR — and in the other struggling countries — could use some statements of support from more journalism groups. It would be nice to see the SPJ, the NABJ, the NAHJ and the AAJA speak out on this issue and offer support.

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Filed under Censorship, Connections, Corruption, Harassment

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