MIAMI, USA -- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) on Thursday offered its support for a request by several Dominican Republic newspapers that the parts of the Law on Expression and Dissemination of Thought and the Penal Code that make defamation and libel criminal offences be declared unconstitutional, saying that these stipulations restrict press freedom.
El Día, Listín Diario, Diario Libre, El Nacional, Hoy, El Nuevo Diario and El Caribe on Thursday published a petition addressed Constitutional Court judges to eliminate “in a reasonable time” 11 articles of Law 6132 on Expression and Dissemination of Thought and five of the Penal Code which they regard as not compatible with the Constitution and the American Convention on Human Rights. They had presented the petition initially on February 25, 2013.
The newspapers maintain that the articles in question establish “a system of criminal persecution of privation of liberty for press crimes that is unjust and go beyond the principle of reasonableness established in the Constitution.” They are also asking for the elimination of a provision in the law that makes the editor of a media outlet responsible as the principal author of alleged defamation or libel.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, declared, “The repeated request of the Dominican editors and publishers is consistent with making defamation no longer a criminal offence, a trend in favour of freedom of the press and of expression that has been strengthened by case law and opinions of the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, respectively.”
The trend to such decriminalisation is irreversible. In recent years defamation has been made no longer a criminal offence in Argentina, Bermuda, Chile (in part), El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay and there are currently legislative bills to this effect in several other countries.