Dominican government seizes control of newspapers…

On May 15th, Dominican government officials, with the help of police forces, took over the country's main media outlets, including four TV channels, several radio stations and four newspapers – Listín Diario, Última Hora, El Expreso and El Financiero. All of the media outlets were owned by entrepreneur Ramón Báez Figueroa whose bank, Banco Intercontinental, is under investigation for financial fraud. The District Attorney (Fiscalía del Distrito Nacional) selected new administrators for each of the media companies in order to clear relationships with other companies also owned by entrepreneur Ramón Báez Figueroa. The journalists and publishers of Listín Diario (Miguel Franjul), El Expreso (Osvaldo Santana), Última Hora (Virgilio Alcántara) and El Financiero (Frank Marino Hernández) have spoken out against the occupation, considering it a violation of free speech. Analysts objected to the take over because the action took place before the judge had issued an order to seize Báez Figueroa's companies.

Listin Diario, the Dominican Republic's largest newspaper, with a circulation of 96,000, publishes The Wall Street Journal Special Edition and a New York Times Weekly Supplement in Spanish (see “The Gray Lady expands into Latin America,” page 10, Portadatm No. 2 March/April 2003).

...and interrogates critical journalist.

On June 11, state security officials in the Dominican Republic interrogated journalist Marino Zapete Corniel and accused him of insulting President Hipólito Mejía in a series of recent articles. This event added further friction to an already tense relationship between the Government and the media. According to Zapete, four officials from the National Department of Investigations (DNI) and an assistant prosecutor arrived at his home in the capital, Santo Domingo, and asked him to come with them to DNI headquarters. Zapete was released after more than five hours of questioning. Zapete works for the Miami-based online newspaper Los Nuevos Tiempos Digital and the local weekly Primicias. During the last two months, he wrote a series of articles that appeared in both 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. In two of the articles, Zapete claimed that President Mejía was building two mansions in the country using public funds. President Mejía has said that he will file a lawsuit against Zapete.


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