Reporters Without Borders on Tuesday urged Dominican authorities to provide protection for El Nacional reporter Pedro Fernández, following a series of violent actions against him. Unknown perpetrators fired shots at Fernández in the northern city of San Francisco de Macoris, as he was driving through the Los Chiripios neighborhood. This came a week after tear-gas grenades were thrown at his home.
Fernández, who has written about drug gangs in his part of the country, escaped from the scene, “from what did not appear to be a random attack” according to Reporters Without Borders (known by the French initials RSF). A hand-written letter was found at the scene of the attack, warning the journalist to stop writing about the city’s drug outlets.
“Pedro Fernandez should be given the protection of a bodyguard immediately. We urge Dominican authorities to undertake an investigation as soon as possible to find the perpetrators of the attack and those behind it,” said Camille Soulier, the head of the nonprofit organization’s Americas desk that defends safety for journalists and the freedom to be informed.
There has been a worrying rise in threats and crimes against journalists in the Dominican Republic. In January, Fernández had already reported evidence of a plot to kill him, and he criticized the tardiness of the police.
“The Dominican Republic is a major regional drug-trafficking hub. The risk of reprisals is very high for journalists who dare to denounce the activities of organized crime,” said RSF at the time the evidence was denounced.
Reporters Without Borders is a Paris-based nonprofit organization that advocates for freedom of information around the world. They rank the Dominican Republic 68th of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom.