Defamation laws have been used more in the Caribbean and Latin America than other parts of the world. Some countries are now working to overturn the laws.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Dominican radio commentator Melton Pineda’s mouth rankled politicians frequently enough over the years to earn him the nickname “The Bazooka.” This month, after he was prosecuted under the country’s archaic defamation laws, it also earned him three months in prison.
A court found that Mr. Pineda slandered a politically connected former police spokesman when he accused him of ties to the criminal world. In the United States, Pineda could have been forced to pay damages to his victim under a civil suit.
Laws that criminalize defamation, relics of colonialism on the books in countries throughout the world but rarely used by most, present one of the biggest threats to the media in the Caribbean, journalists and press freedom groups say. Now, governments in the region are pledging to work to decriminalize defamation. Their efforts are supported by an international press freedom organization that sees the Caribbean as a proving ground for a wider campaign to do away with the laws.
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