Local November 9, 2012 | 7:25 am

Bill threatens Dominican Republic’s freedom of expression

Miami.- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) warned Thursday that a bill already approved by the Chamber of Deputies, that if passed into law, would be a serious setback to Dominican Republic’s freedom of expression.

The legislation includes amendments to the Criminal Code and, among them, one that eventually punishes offensive expressions against the President and the Vice President, lawmakers, judges, electoral and other officials, imprisonment of up to three years and fines as high as nine minimum wages.

"This measure already approved in the Dominican Chamber of Deputies on a first roll call rises to the rank of defamation and libel to a criminal offense, when all jurisprudence produced by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights goes in exactly the opposite direction," said Claudio Paolillo, IAPA President of the Freedom of the Press and Information Committee.

He said if the Dominican Congress continues down this path and ends up definitely approving this reform, it would "set a enormously negative precedent, not only for that country but for the entire region."

Article 191 of the law being debated in Congress states that the fact of publicly uttering another person or entity, "any outrageous expression, invective or which implies a term of contempt, is slander" which means another infringement to the doctrine proclaimed by OAS member countries favoring the decriminalization of speech transgressions or against honor.

"To convict a journalist to prison is a violation of freedom of information and the right of citizens to inform be and be informed," said Dominican Journalists Guild president Aurelio Henriquez

Members of the Dominican press called the measure and attempt by lawmakers as intimidation to inhibit journalists to speak on major public figures and reduce the ability of press criticism of the government.

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