Puerto Rico

A climate of press freedom has prevailed during these past six months. However, it has been threatened several times by a series of incidents that have led to attacks and attempted attacks by police on reporters covering a prolonged student conflict in the public University of Puerto Rico. These incidents have occurred at a time when the government is attempting to set “the guidelines for freedom expression” on the university campus and other public places, the Center for Freedom of the Press, press guilds and the Human Rights Commission denounced. The most significant developments were: On December 22 the News Photographers Association reported an attack on Telenoticias (Channel 2) television cameraman David Solís by a police officer who broke part of his camera as he was starting to film a scene in which several officers were arresting and applying questionable techniques from the civil rights point of view on one of the students on strike. On January 28 the not-for-profit organization Prensa Comunitaria denounced the unjustified arrest of a Radio Huelga correspondent and assaults on other journalists during coverage of events of civil disobedience on the university campus. Prensa Comunitaria director Carla Minet declared that it was “one of the most dramatic actions in a pattern of physical and verbal attacks on members of the press on the part of the police, especially the Tactical Operations Unit … who beat up our colleagues, break and seize equipment and don’t allow them to report.” On February 1 the News Photographers Association filed with the Justice Minister a lawsuit protesting an attack by the police on news photographer Ricardo Alcaraz while he was covering the university strike. On February 25 the Puerto Rico Supreme Court dismissed a suit brought in July last year by press organizations against the Senate president for having arbitrarily thrown reporters and photographers out of the chamber. Access by the public and the press is guaranteed under Puerto Rico’s Constitution, so the Court’s decision not to uphold the charge that this conduct had been unconstitutional leaves it up to the elected official to choose to carry on restricting access to the Senate and the work of reporters.