Puerto Rico

PUERTO RICO Report to the Midyear Meeting Caracas, Venezuela March 28 - 30, 2008 There have been no serious violations of press freedom. On March 5, a three-judge panel of the Boston Court of Appeals heard arguments from lawyers of the journalists attacked by FBI agents on February 10, 2006. The journalists filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the federal Department of Justice because of the attacks which included being tear-gassed, beaten and kicked while covering a raid by the agency. The journalists said the agents prevented them from working and used excessive force. At the hearing, held in the Viejo San Juan federal court, legal representatives of the Puerto Rico Journalists Association (ASPPRO) asked the judges to overturn the dismissal of the case by Judge José Fusté of the San Juan federal court. Also on that day of panel of judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston heard arguments in the case of two people who had been convicted. They requested that the record of a hearing ordered closed by a federal judge in San Juan be opened. In that appeal, the dailies El Vocero and The San Juan Star and radio stations NotiUno and WAPA RADIO presented friends of the court briefs on December 6, 2007. The motion to unseal the hearing was filed by René Vázquez Botet and Marcos Morell Corrado who had been convicted of extortion, conspiracy and money laundering in the construction of the Superacqueduct project on the north coast of the island. The two men are connected to the former governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Rosselló and the New Progressive Party. Vázquez Botet and Morell Corrado have alleged that there are irregularities in the case against them. On February 7, the Puerto Rican Supreme Court dismissed a motion to reconsider the sentence of puppeteer Antulio ´Kobbo” Santarrosa who had been convicted of libeling businessman Adolfo Krans on his popular television show, “SúperExclusivo.” Krans is the former husband of ex-governor Sila M. Calderón. On December 14, 2007 the Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal by Santarrosa and WAPA Televisión to modify the sentence. Santarrosa can request a second reconsideration of the sentence by the high court. Earlier, on November 29, the mayor of Patillas, Itzamar Peña and her husband filed a lawsuit for libel and damages against SúperExclusivo.” The suit alleges that Santarrosa libeled the couple when he cast doubt on the paternity of the baby the mayor is expecting. On December 11, Nelson Reyes, a photographer for the daily Primera Hora, was attacked by a member of the police department’s Tactical Operations Division while covering a festival in Hatillo. The Puerto Rico New Photographers Association asked police chief Pedro Toledo to investigate the attack. It was reported that Toledo agreed to begin an investigation and bring criminal charges if it is appropriate. On November 1, the federal prosecutor’s office requested that radio station Radio Isla hand over its reporters’ material related to Aníbal Acevedo Vilá’s political campaigns for resident commissioner and governor. The request was made to Media Power Group, which owns the radio station. Governor Acevedo Vilá is the subject of a federal investigation about his campaigns for both positions The station only handed over documents concerning the governor’s advertising schedules. The hearing on the lawsuit by Xavier Araújo, of El Nuevo Día, and El Día Inc. against the Puerto Rican Police Department was postponed until October 2, 2008. A judge of the Bayamón Superior Court subpoenaed the five police officers involved in the attack on Araújo when he was covering a kidnapping at a shopping center in December of 2004. The lawsuit was filed on December 15, 2005 a year after the attack on the photographer and one day after the Department of Justice decided not to charge the five police officers.