Dominican newspapers say defamation law is unconstitutional

The presidents of three newspapers in the Dominican Republic have asked for the decriminalization of defamation, in the Law on Expression and Diffusion of Thought and in the Penal Code, on the grounds on unconstitutionality, reported the newspaper El Día.

Miguel Franjul, president of the paper Listín Diario; Rafael Molina Morillo, of El Día; and Osvaldo Santana, of El Caribe; as well as staff of the Press and Law Foundation turned to the Constitutional Tribunal to challenge seven articles of the law which recommend prison terms for defamation. The articles are in Law 6132 and clauses 368 to 372 of the Penal Code, according to the newspaper Hoy.

Napmhi Rodríguez, representing the media companies, said that those sessions of the law have a chilling effect on public opinion and create fear among citizens that they will lose their freedom if they denounce corruption.

The petitioners hope that amendments to the law are made in the Chamber of Deputies, which is already studying the law, said Proceso.

report from the International Press Institute (IPI) named the Dominican Republic as one of thirteen Caribbean countries in which defamation is considered a criminal, rather than civil, offense.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.