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Tags: journalists | dominican republic | zapete

Journalists Facing Harassment by Dominican Republic Chief Prosecutor

Journalists Facing Harassment by Dominican Republic Chief Prosecutor

Dominican Republic's General Attorney, Jean Alain Rodriguez, speaks during a press conference after the arrest of the Dominican Republic's drug trafficker Cesar Emilio Peralta Adamez at the Attorney General's Office in Santo Domingo on December 2, 2019. (Erika Santelices/afp/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 18 December 2019 11:30 AM EST

The Dominican Republic’s judicial system continues to serve as a repressive tool of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD, Partido de la Liberación Dominicana).

This month, journalist Marino Zapete denounced that Dominican Republic’s Chief Prosecutor, Jean Alain Rodríguez, has been leading an “aggressive and intimidating campaign” against him, after Zapete revealed illicit contracts allegedly signed between Rodriguez’s sister and the Ministry of Public Works worth approximately $20 million.

Rodríguez — who is a key member of the PLD Central Committee — and the PLD are particularly concerned about these revelations, because these contracts were approved under the administration of current PLD presidential nominee to the May 2020 elections, Gonzalo Castillo.

Castillo, who served as Public Works minister from August 2012 to August 2019, approved contracts of asphalt cement AC-30 without holding a public tender, in violation of the Law on Public Procurement and Contracting. Castillo has admitted in public that he has approved contracts that "could land him in prison."

However, Instead of investigating these illicit contracts, Chief Prosecutor Rodríguez is persecuting journalists.

Systematic Harassment

In September, Marino Zapete was fired from television channel Teleradio América after Chief Prosecutor Rodríguez threatened the channel’s owner with "legal proceedings" if he did not cancel Zapete’s news program, "El Jarabe." The program was cancelled and Zapete is currently broadcasting "El Jarabe" from his personal YouTube platform.

After achieving Zapete’s dismissal from Teleradio América, and in a bid to axing all forms of Zapete’s income, Rodríguez proceeded to contact Zapete’s private sector employers and asked them to fire him. Zapete’s employers rejected this despotic request.

It is clear that Zapete’s revelations lacerate Castillo’s presidential candidacy and, consequently, the PLD's chances of remaining in power. Hence, in order "to silence him and intimidate him," Zapete explains, Chief Prosecutor Rodríguez recently started legal proceedings, via his sister, against him by filing a formal complaint for alleged defamation.

If sentenced, Zapete would have to pay a fine of approximately $95,000 and serve six months in prison.

This is not the first time Chief Prosecutor Rodríguez has employed dictatorial maneuvers to pressure directors and owners of radio stations and television channels into censoring and/or firing dissenting journalists.

In August 2018, political commentators Edith Febles, Altagracia Salazar, and Ricardo Nieves were forced to resign from television program "Enfoque Matinal" broadcasted by television news channel CDN — after Rodríguez, according to various sources, contacted CDN high-ranking executives and demanded a restructuring in the program’s staff.

This incident took place after the journalists revealed irregularities in a contest organized by Rodríguez, and fomented by the PLD, to elect new prosecutors at the Attorney General’s central, provincial, and municipal offices. The ulterior purpose of this contest was to replace neutral, non-partisan prosecutors with PLD-aligned prosecutors to secure impunity for influential PLD members.

Rodríguez and the PLD have also subjected members of the judiciary to harassment. In April 2019, former president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, Miriam Germán Brito, was sacked for not aligning herself with the PLD in respect to the Odebrecht corruption case, in which several PLD high-ranking members are involved. The Attorney General's Office illegally intercepted Germán Brito’s phone and scrutinized her personal life and patrimony. “Intelligence officers were following me everywhere,” explained Judge Germán Brito.

The PLD has been increasingly adopting dictatorial tactics to silence and censor individuals. If this tendency continues, matters considered overcome in the Dominican Republic, such as political incarcerations, popular uprisings, and political assassinations, could re-emerge, thus threatening the political stability of this country and the region.

It is important to highlight that Zapete, a benchmark of neutrality and candor within the Latin American media spectrum, does not stand a chance in court against the Dominican Government, Chief Prosecutor Rodríguez, and the Dominican Republic’s corrupt judicial system.

The International Community (IC), Reporters Without Borders, the International Press Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, amongst other institutions, must strongly condemn the repressive activities of the Dominican Government against dissident journalists and must demand an immediate halt to the harassment and intimidation.

The IC must remain vigilant of the Dominican Government modus operandi and must demand freedom of press in order to prevent these authoritarian measures from escalating into lethal practices.

Ramon Collado holds a graduate degree from New York University's Center for Global Affairs. Collado has contributed to Forbes, The Hill, The Jerusalem Post, The Miami Herald, El Dia, and other major news sources. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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The IC must remain vigilant of the Dominican Government modus operandi and must demand freedom of press in order to prevent these authoritarian measures from escalating into lethal practices.
journalists, dominican republic, zapete
Wednesday, 18 December 2019 11:30 AM
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