IAPA welcomes decriminalisation of defamation in Dom Rep
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has expressed satisfaction at a new advance regarding press freedom in the Dominican Republic following the annulment of seven articles that made defamation and slander in matters of public interest criminal offences.
The Constitutional Court annulled articles of the Law on Freedom of Expression and Dissemination of Thought, holding that they violated Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights regarding freedom of thought and of expression.
Pierre Manigault, president of the IAPA and of the Charleston, South Carolina, newspaper The Post and Courier, declared: "We applaud the partial elimination of rules that made certain speaking about matters of public interest a criminal offence, which created a blanket of self-censorship in the media and among journalists, limiting the watchdog role of the press and thus the public's right to information."
The Constitutional Court ruling responded to an appeal of unconstitutionality submitted in February 2013 by the a group of editors and publishers of the newspapers, in which they called for the elimination of 11 articles of the law which made the work of the press criminal offences and five others of the Penal Code that set prison sentences for so-called voiced offences.
Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, added: "In the face of this great advance the IAPA always requests that civil sentences comply with criteria of rationality and proportionality, as in many cases financial fines can become serious limitations for the media."
Paolillo said the IAPA is awaiting response to the request by the Dominican media for the elimination from the Penal Code of some articles that uphold prison sentences.
He also expressed regret the fact that there still remain in law some rules that condition press freedom on a criminal basis.
Defamation offences are no longer considered criminal in Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile (partial elimination), Costa Rica. El Salvador, Grenada, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the defence and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas.
It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.