“These laws are clearly being used to silence journalism,” Mr. Griffen says.
Mr. Pineda’s case garnered wide attention in the Dominican Republic, but cases have also been brought in Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda in recent years. One of the better known cases internationally took place in Ecuador in 2011 when President Rafael Correa used criminal libel laws against three newspaper executives and a columnist. They were sentenced to three years in prison each and a multi-million dollar fine.
President Correa ultimately pardoned the journalists in a televised address that included the warning, “there is forgiveness, but it is not forgotten.”
This year, Grenada took a step toward reversing this trend when it became the first Caribbean country to repeal the laws. Now the governments of at least three other Caribbean countries – including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago – have pledged to work on legislation to address the issue.
An IPI delegation recently visited four Caribbean countries to meet with politicians and journalists.
”We think that the Caribbean is an excellent place to start [on a wider campaign] because these are countries open to press freedom,” Griffen says.
Criminal defamation laws often mirror those in colonizing countries; the English-speaking Caribbean countries, for example, have laws that date directly to England's Lord Campbell’s Act, the country’s first obscenity statute adopted in the mid 1800s.