IPI today expressed solidarity with four Dominican Republic journalists recently threatened with death at a public event and it called on authorities to investigate the case and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
The victims are Juan Bolívar Díaz, Huchi Lora, Amelia Deschamps and Roberto Cavada, four of the country’s most influential television journalists.
According to a statement released by the journalists, the threats came from members of the “Independent Patriotic Movement”, a group, the journalists say, that has proclaimed itself “defenders of the fatherland”.
The death threats came on Jan. 26 during two simultaneous public events in the cities of Santiago and Azua to mark the anniversary of the birth of Juan Pablo Duarte, considered the country’s founding father. Crowds at both events were called upon to kill the four journalists.
According to the statement, the promoter of the event in Santiago’s El Egido Park declared that “anti-Dominican traitors deserve to die: the Juan Bolivar Díazes, the Huchi Loras, the Cavadas, they deserve to die because they betray the Dominican homeland. In that sense we are calling on all of the nation’s democratic forces to defend our nationhood”.
Díaz, one of the country’s most prominent journalists, explained to IPI that the Movement has accused him and his colleagues of being “anti-Dominican” for their criticism of the government’s decision to strip Dominican citizenship from descendants of illegal immigrants from Haiti.
“We ask authorities to stop this campaign of hate and stigmatisation that has led to calls for our death in public places,” Bolívar Díaz, news editor of Canal 2, said.
The journalists say they view the threats against them as part of an orchestrated campaign by the Movement to discredit and intimidate them. They said that related incidents began in the middle of January. Two of the journalists alleged in the statement that a Movement member approached them in a supermarket and warned: “We are going to kill the traitors and the first ones are going to be the journalists.”
The president of the Dominican Republic Association of Journalists, Aurelio Henríquez, publicly condemned the threats. “We reject the public deaths threats made against four of our country’s leading journalists,” he said. “This situation affects freedom of expression and the press for all other journalists.”
Henríquez also called on international organisations to “urge the Dominican government to fully investigate this situation and to try to assert control over this situation of incitement to hate and killing committed by certain citizens against those who think differently from them”.
Last Friday, the four journalists filed charges with the Santiago prosecutor’s office. The person allegedly behind the threats also appeared under court order. In his statement to the prosecutor, the accused alleged that “there were traitors to the country”.
Meanwhile, a group of supporters of the accused gathered outside of the prosecutor’s office and sought to harass the three journalists present.
According to Díaz, last weekend a columnist for the online newspaper Acento and his son also were threatened with death, presumably by followers of the same organisation.
Díaz added: “There is an attitude of intimidation and intolerance against anyone who criticises their positions.”