Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dominican Republic: "El Nacional" Journalist Shot at by Critics of His Filings on Illegal Drug Trade

According to The Latin American Tribune, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders advocacy group on Tuesday (July 1) asked Dominican Republic authorities to provide protection for an El Nacional journalist who has been the target of death threats.

“Pedro Fernández should be afforded [governmental security protection] immediately,” said Camille Soulier, head of the Paris-based organization’s Amerícas desk.

An assailant fired several shots at Fernández on Monday (June 30) in the northern Dominican city of San Francisco de Macorís, just a week after tear-gas grenades were thrown at his home, according to Reporters Without Borders, known by its French initials, "RSF." 

The attack on the journalist occurred in the northeastern town of San Francisco de Macorís, the eighth largest city in the DR. 

COMMENT: Being very cognizant of the risks all journalists in Latin America take every day, I would be very interested in helping all journalists stay alive in countries such as the Dominican Republic, where I have had considerable experience.

In the short-term, journalists working in the Dominican Republic should do the following:

1. Do nothing according to a SCHEDULE. A "choke-point," where you can be expected to be at a specified time can get you killed;

2. Have family members drive your children to and from school;

3. Constantly change meetings at the office so your personal movements cannot be predicted;

4. Never arrive or depart at your home at the SAME TIME;

5. Predictably be UNPREDICTABLE. Never do anything at the same time each day; and

6. If you have a high-risk meeting, change it at the last minute and reschedule.
Fernández heard gunfire and managed to promptly exit his vehicle," “escaping unhurt from what did not appear to be a random attack,” said RSF.

A handwritten letter found at the scene after the attack on Fernández’s residence warned that the journalist would be killed if he continued to file reports about the illegal drug trade.

“We urge the Dominican authorities to undertake an investigation as soon as possible to find the perpetrators of the attack and those behind it,” Ms. Soulier said. 

Unfortunately, the Dominican Republic government affords little emphasis on the protection of journalists, ranking 68th of 180 countries in RSF’s 2014 World Press Freedom Index.

This report will be updated as new information is updated.