Constitutional Court ruling partially decriminalises defamation

Expression

In early 2016, after a three-year wait, the Constitutional Court struck down seven articles of the Law on Expression and Dissemination of Thought (Law 6132), partially invalidating a set of criminal penalties on so-called "speech crimes" in place since 1962. The ruling was made in response to a constitutional challenge brought by three newspapers, supported by members of the Dominican Newspaper Association. This ruling overturns the "cascade effect" whereby  editors were deemed responsible for any third party statement shown to be defamatory. It also strikes down prior restraint provisions barring media outlets from publishing "allegations or statements of doubt" harmful to the reputation of public officials and diplomats. The press hailed the high court's ruling as an initial victory and decided to continue fighting for the complete dismantling of remaining harmful provisions in this law and in the Penal Code. In April, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) warned of rising threats to journalists in the Dominican Republic and the recurrence of physical assaults, threats, and pressures of all kind to which reporters, news photographers, and radio and television commentators are subjected. Such incidents have been on the rise in recent years, coinciding with an increase in the activity of organised crime, gangs and criminality.