Dominican radio shutdown brings reaction from IAPA

MIAMI, Florida (January 12, 2004)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA)
said today it is concerned at the closure of a political radio show in Santo Domingo,
Dominican Republic, ordered by a senior official in the country’s presidential
office.

The program, “El Poder de la Tarde” (Afternoon Power), hosted by
journalist César Medina has been aired daily by the Cielo F.M. radio
station, one of the news media that was placed in official receivership by the
government. That action had been taken in order to seize the assets of the station’s
owner company, the Banco Intercontinental bank, following its declaration of
bankruptcy last May. The bank also owns other radio and television stations
and several newspapers.

Journalists working at the radio station reported that the official receiver,
José Llluberes, had told them that the program was being taken off the
air under strict orders from the head of the presidential press office, Luis
González Fabra.

It was not the first time that government politicians had taken what opponents
say is unlawful action against news media under the anti-money laundering law.
On several previous occasions the IAPA has complained that radio stations in
receivership were used to broadcast political campaigning by President Hipólito
Mejía, who is seeking reelection next May. The IAPA has also pointed
out that the newspaper Listín Diario and television channels 13 and 17,
also in official receivership, have slanted their political news and opinion
in favor of the government.

“What is happening with the news media placed in receivership by the
government,” said Rafael Molina, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee
on Freedom of the Press and Information, “poses a grave danger for freedom
of expression in the Dominican Republic and sets a bad example for the rest
of the region, because while it deprives citizens of like-minded and reliable
media that keep them duly informed of what is happening in the nation it is
also an abuse of power that produces unwarranted imbalances in the political
arena, especially during the current run-up to elections.”

Cielo F.M. (previously known as Power) is operated by the Sistema Nacional
de Radiodifusión company, one of the businesses owned by the now bankrupt
Banco Intercontinental bank.

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