Critical journalist murdered in Dominican Republic

New York, August 3, 2011–The body of José Agustín Silvestre, a critical Dominican journalist who ran a magazine and hosted a television program, was found Tuesday morning shortly after he was seized by gunmen in the southeastern city of La Romana, according to local press reports

Four unidentified assailants grabbed Silvestre, 59, outside a hotel around 8 a.m. and forced him into a Jeep, according to press reports. His body was found about an hour later near a highway connecting La Romana and San Pedro Macorís with three gunshot wounds, one to the head, one to the neck, and one to the abdomen. Press reports said the assailants shot Silvestre at least once immediately after seizing the journalist.

“We condemn the brutal killing of José Agustín Silvestre,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We call on Dominican authorities to fully investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice.”

Silvestre, director of the magazine “La Voz de la Verdad” (Voice of the Truth) and host of a Caña TV program of the same name, had accused political figures and a priest of having involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering, press reports said

In May, a local prosecutor filed a defamation complaint against Silvestre in connection with a television report that accused the official of having ties to drug traffickers. Silvestre was jailed for several days until posting bail, according to news reports. The case was pending, and Silvestre was due to appear on Tuesday, according to Elpidio Tolentino, a local official with the press group Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas (CDP).

Silvestre had told CDP that he was followed by two cars that tried to intercept him on July 23. Silvestre also told the group that he had information regarding the recent murder of a local businessman, Tolentino said. The attorney general’s office announced that it would form a special commission to investigate the murder, the press reported.