Freedom of Expression

Press Release R85/11








Washington D.C., August 4,  2011 — The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist José Agustín Silvestre de los Santos which took place on August 2. The Office of the Special Rapporteur recognizes the Dominican authorities' rapid response and urges the State to conduct a thorough investigation that focuses on the possibility that the crime was connected to the victim’s investigative reporting.


According to the information received, on the morning of August 2, Silvestre de los Santos, 59, was forced inside a vehicle by several individuals in the town of La Romana.  Hours later, his dead body was found with multiple bullet wounds on the highway that runs between La Romana and San Pedro de Macorís.  The country’s Attorney General, Radhamés Jiménez, announced the creation of a special investigation committee would be to solve this case.


The information received indicates that Silvestre was executive editor of La Voz de la Verdad magazine, and anchorman of the La Voz de la Verdad television program on Caña TV, a local station. His critical and investigative reporting led to both legal proceedings and death threats against him. Recently, he had denounced alleged links between police and judicial authorities and organized crime. A week before the murder, Silvestre reported to the Dominican Journalists’ Association that on July 23 two vehicles had tried to intercept him.


The reporter was standing trial for defamation and libel as a result of his allegation regarding a possible infiltration of the Prosecutors’ Office of La Romana by drug traffickers.  


The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential that the State undertakes a prompt and diligent investigation in order to prevent the murder from going unpunished, establish the motive of the crime, identify all direct perpetrators and masterminds, appropriately compensate the victim's family members, and prevent the repetition of such attacks against journalists. Indeed, violence against media workers not only affects the victim's human rights, but also generates a very serious chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech.


The ninth principle of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."