PUERTO RICO

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During this period, there was a followup of attacks on journalists by FBI agents during a raid on the apartment of an independence activist. In the middle of September, Government Secretary Jorge Silva Puras, announced new guidelines for providing information to the press, including one requiring that heads of agencies not make public comments without authorization from the Central Communications Office of the Government Department. Silva Puras said that the guidelines are intended to respond to the government’s information needs. Local press associations rejected the guidelines as an attempt to control or limit the flow of information. In a positive development, on June 22, the Senate approved Bill 1019 guaranteeing protection of journalists’ sources. The commonwealth’s law of journalistic sources says that journalists may not be required to reveal their confidential sources nor penalized for refusing to do so. On September 22, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Journalists’ Association of Puerto Rico (ASPPRO), the Overseas Press Club and six journalists announced that they had filed a civil lawsuit against the FBI in the U.S. District Court in San Juan, “for violating the civil rights of more than 20 reporters who were beaten, sprayed with pepper gas and blocked from covering an important new event, even though they were not violating the law.” This unprecedented lawsuit seeks to compensate the journalists for the abuse they suffered and to order the FBI to establish a procedure to ensure that journalists are able to fulfill their duties. Press organizations in the United States and Puerto Rico said they will join the suit as friends of the court. The event took place on February 10 when federal agents kicked and sprayed with pepper gas journalists covering an FBI raid on the residence of an independence activist. On March 9, Judge Awilda Mejías ordered puppeteer Antulio “Kobbo” Santarosa, a popular television performer, and Televicentro de Puerto Rico, which broadcasts his program, to pay $260,000 in a libel suit brought by the businessman Adolfo Krans. The judge ordered a $10,000 payment of legal fees to the lawyers of the plaintiffs, who filed the suit in 2002. Krans and his children sued Santarosa after he said on the television program that the businessman had a lover. At the time he was still married to Sila M. Calderón, who was governor of Puerto Rico,. During the trial, it came out that the news was broadcast even though it was known to be false. On June 29, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Federico Hernández Denton, put into effect a procedure for reporters covering the courts. The objective is to inform and guarantee fair access for the media to judicial proceedings and public information about them. It applies to lower courts, appeals courts and the Supreme Court. On August 27, the secretary of the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), Thomas Rivera Schatz, hurled strong insults and foul language at journalists Irene Gazón, Oscar Serrano and Leonardo Aldridge, of the daily Primera Hora during a press conference. He accused them of being connected to the government. On September 1, a group of PNP sympathizers attacked representatives of the media during a party demonstration in front of the Justice Department. The group insulted and threatened to attack the reporters, cameramen and photographers covering the event.

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