Puerto Rico

Access to public information, treatment of reporters and photographers in coverage of protests and incidents and the absence of a satisfactory solution to a long-standing federal case of attacks on journalists are matters that have been of concern to the press during these last six months. On September 2 several press organizations and the Center for Freedom of the Press (CLP) asked Gov. Luis Fortuño to follow up a series of petitions made since January on coverage and choice of matters of public interest in the press-government relationship. One element of concern is the “selective information” on public activities of the governor, which has consisted of not making the media aware of various events in which he takes part, alleging that they are “private” events. As a consequence of the policies of cost-cutting and dismissal of some 17,000 public employees a number of labor union protests have been staged. Prior to a national stoppage on October 15 the state police stepped in to remove various union leaders who had chained themselves outside the La Fortaleza government headquarters. The police officers acted indiscriminately, injuring duly identified reporters. On August 13 the chief judge of the Federal Court in San Juan, José A. Fusté, disallowed a civil lawsuit alleging violation of civil rights and of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution filed by six journalists and press organizations against the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The journalists were attacked with pepper spray and beaten by FBI agents on February 10, 2006 as they were covering an FBI operation. Fusté held that the journalists “could reasonably have thought that there was an established perimeter and the reporters violated that perimeter on entering the condominium.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing the journalists, is to appeal the decision on the FBI agents not being able to respond for their actions, arguing that the court ruling threw a mantle of impunity over unlawful acts by a public force. In an effort to put conditions on the work of the press, especially investigative journalism, the majority bloc of the government´s party in the Senate, presented a bill on October 28 called Law of Electronic Crimes on the Internet. Although the bill begins by classifying the advertising, marketing and sale of stolen articles on the Internet as a crime, it is Chapter II, Electronic Crimes Against the State, Section 1, that establishes the goal we condemn: “If any person obtains fraudulent or illegal access to a computer or computer system without authorization or exceeding the authorization given him and in this way obtains information the government has determined to be confidential and privileged and the dissemination of which is not authorized for reasons of public order, safety or any other reason, with the intention or reasons to believe that information will be used to harm the government or any of its agencies, to disturb the peace or provide an advantage to any natural or legal entity in detriment to the government, this will constitute a serious crime….”