In the Dominican Republic, freedom of the press and of expression are real and guaranteed by the Constitution. Recent years have seen a decline in verbal and physical attacks on journalists.
As Dominican democracy seems to consolidate, the media has taken on a more important role and its influence has increased. The media landscape is diverse and dynamic, and journalists regularly uncover scandals involving current or former political figures, as well as their entourage. The population has access to all media. Major newspapers have both print and digital versions, television and radio broadcast daily news programs, and the Internet has grown to become a mass medium that has given rise to smaller outlets. The newspapers with the largest circulations are Diario Libre and Listín Diario, with the latter being distributed for free since its inception.
More and more journalists are identified as having links with political parties. As in other countries, politicians present their positions and ideas in the press. Disinformation or smear campaigns targeting the media are relatively rare in the Dominican Republic, and most occur on social media. These campaigns also work to spread false information about the country.
The Dominican Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but some articles of the Penal Code still impose prison sentences for journalists found guilty of defamation or slander. In recent years, the Constitutional Court (TCRD) has declared unconstitutional sanctions imposed on directors or owners of media outlets who authorise the publication of information written by a third party (journalist or columnist). Several bills aimed at decriminalising press offences have been submitted to the bicameral congress. The government has set up a commission of journalists and jurists to study amendments to Law 6132 on the expression and dissemination of thought, which dates from the early 1960s.
Pay TV and the Internet have fostered the appearance of dozens of programs and small online media outlets. The most important publications have emphasised their online content and reduced their paper format. Due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, they have also had to reduce their page numbers. Publicity, whether public or private, plays an essential role in the development of the press. While public campaigns are still mainly directed at larger media outlets, smaller ones have also benefitted. Politicians are increasingly involved in television and Internet programs that they create in order to have a platform to air their views. Some, however, start programs on other topics so as to maintain some relevance.
Even though Dominicans consider the role of the press to be positive, the main news outlets are owned by a single, very large private consortium, which is among the most powerful in the country and which brings together businessmen from the banking and construction sectors. These include Listín Diario, Hoy, El Nacional, El Caribe, El Día (free), Diario Libre, and television channels such as Telesistema, Teleantillas and Coral.
In the Dominican Republic, journalists work in satisfactory, safe working conditions. However, there is widespread fear of being wiretapped by the government or by some large companies. One of the main scourges of the profession is self-censorship in regards to the interests of media owners. In addition, many journalists work in ministries and other public institutions, as well as in the private media, mainly to escape low salaries. Journalists who have received death threats have been given state protection.