“It’s like a dark cloud that’s always hanging over you,” says Rawle Titus, a journalist and president of the Media Workers Association of Grenada, which repealed its defamation laws in July as part of an overhaul of its criminal code. “You have to be cautious about what you write and say because you know these laws exist.”
In the past 15 years, defamation laws have been invoked “more in the Caribbean and Latin America and less in other parts of the world,” says Scott Griffen, the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) press freedom adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“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.”