DOMINICAN REPUBLIC


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press




JUNE 11, 2003

Marino Zapete Corniel, Los Nuevos Tiempos Digital, Primicias
HARASSED

Officials from the National Department of Investigations (DNI) interrogated Zapete, of the Miami-based online newspaper Los Nuevos Tiempos Digital and the local weekly Primicias, and accused him of insulting President Hipólito Mejía in a series of articles he wrote between late April and early June.

According to Zapete, at around 6 a.m., four DNI officials and an assistant prosecutor arrived at his home in the capital, Santo Domingo, and asked him to come with them to DNI headquarters to answer some questions. After more than five hours of questioning, the president's press secretary told the DNI director, Gen. Fernando Cruz Méndez, and Zapete that he had orders from the president to release the journalist.

During the two months prior to his detention, Zapete had written a series of articles that appeared in both his publications criticizing President Mejía for his handling of the financial collapse of Banco Intercontinental (Baninter), one of the country's largest banks, saying that its collapse would not have been possible if the government's Banking Supervision Agency had done its job. Zapete also criticized Mejía for allegedly defending Baninter's owners and showing little concern for Baninter's account holders and Dominican taxpayers, who will have to repay the money the government pumped into Baninter to keep it afloat.

In two of the articles, Zapete claimed that President Mejía was building two mansions in the country using public funds.

According to Zapete, during his interrogation, the DNI asked him about his political preferences and what he thought about Mejía. The DNI interrogators also tried to pressure Zapete to reveal his sources. Zapete told CPJ that he did not disclose his sources and stood by what he wrote.

Before a departure on June 12 for an official visit to Puerto Rico, President Mejía told the local press that he was going to file a lawsuit against Zapete.


JULY 25, 2003

Horacio Emilio Lemoine, Radio Montecristi
Carlos Martínez, Radio Montecristi
HARASSED

Lemoine and Martínez, hosts of the call-in radio show "El Super Bonche de la Tarde" (The Super Party of the Afternoon) at Radio Montecristi, in the northern city of Montecristi, were detained by police after conducting an informal on-air poll on July 23 asking callers which candidate they would vote for if presidential elections were held that day.

The issue is sensitive because President Hipólito Mejía recently announced plans to run for re-election. A listener called and said that she would rather vote for the devil. Subsequently, other listeners called to concur.

According to Lemoine, two days later, at around 9 p.m., he and Martínez were at a restaurant when the police came and told them that local police chief Col. Frank Félix Almonte Castillo wanted to speak to them. When they arrived at the station, Colonel Almonte told them he had received orders "from above" to take them to the capital, Santo Domingo.

Later that night, Lemoine and Martínez were taken to Santo Domingo's National Police headquarters, where they were held in a cell for more than two days. Lemoine said that police questioned him and Martínez on July 28 for about 30 minutes, asking them how they had come up with the idea of the poll. The two journalists were then handcuffed and sent back to Montecristi, where they were held for an hour at the police station and released.

Lemoine told CPJ that the police did not show them any arrest warrant and no one from the Public Prosecutor's Office was present during the arrest, as required under Dominican law. No charges were filed against Lemoine and Martínez.