Another journalist’s murder brings call for in-depth probe

The Inter American Press Association has condemned the murder of Dominican Republic journalist José Agustín Silvestre. the organization asked officials to order an immediate in-depth investigation to uncover the motive and bring those responsible to justice.

Silvestre, 59, was kidnapped Tuesday morning in the southeastern province of La Romana by four men in a SUV. His body was found several hours later with two gunshot wounds the local media reported. His sister, who was near Silvestre when he was abducted, said she believes he stood up to his assailants so one then shot him.

Silvestre, known as “Gajo,” hosted the program La Voz de la Verdad (“The Voice of Truth”) that aired Monday through Friday at 2:30 p.m. on Cana TV and published a twice-monthly magazine with the same name.

After reporting alleged ties between local public prosecutor José Polanco and drug traffickers he was held in prison for several days in May and charged with libel, then released after posting bail.

Press association President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, said that although the reasons for the murder were not immediately known “the authorities must pay special attention to this crime and investigate transparently and with diligence until those responsible have been identified.”

Robert Rivard, chairman of the organization’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, publicly expressed concern and condemnation of Silvestre’s murder, which is added to 19 committed in the Americas so far this year. “Sadly,” Rivard said, “this is one of the most tragic years for journalists.”

The news of Silvestre’s murder raised angry reactions among his colleagues and Tuesday afternoon the attorney general’s office announced the creation of a special investigative commission.

Silvestre was known for his ongoing and controversial claims about drug trafficking in the community of La Romana on several radio and television programs and in his magazine; on one issue’s cover he accused Polanco of nepotism.

The Web site said that according to unofficial information, last Saturday Silvestre gave details during a program about alleged killers of a pub owner and others in La Romana, “and since that day … he’s had to stay in the city of Santiago because he was being pursued.”

The press association officers also brought up the murders of Dominican journalists Johnny Martínez in 2006, Juan Andújar in 2004 and Luis Orlando Martínez in 1975, cases that ended with convictions as opposed to the case of Narciso González whose whereabouts have remained unknown since 1994.

Last month the Inter-American Human Rights Court held public hearings on the González case.

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