Puerto Rico

In this period there have been no relevant developments adverse to the climate of respect for freedom of the press and of expression. There have, however, occurred some incidents that cause concern, as they interfere with access by journalists to information of public interest. Regarding access to information of public access the government has brought about a selective obstruction of media and journalists whose watchdog role has not been to the liking of key officials in the government. This obstructionist pattern is being applied in particular to the newspapers El Nuevo Día and Primera Hora. In the case of El Nuevo Día the heads of public offices are going from refusing to give interviews to hindering the handing over of public documents that are requested. This has obliged the media to take legal action and go to court for the right of access to such information to be recognized. These actions against media have been evident, among other things, in the areas of education and health – where painstaking investigations by reporters have disclosed serious shortcomings in medical services for the poor and repeated crises in the use of academic resources and operations of public schools, and in special education programs for some 130,000 children and youths with some kind of physical or mental impairment in Puerto Rico. The now dismissed Puerto Rico Police Superintendent José Figueroa Sancha launched a libelous attack on reporter Ricardo Cortés Chico from the newspaper El Nuevo Día, accusing him of carrying out “political assignments” following an investigative report by him published on May 2 and 3 this year in which he revealed a scheme to manipulate police statistics in order to give an impression of a lessening in the crime rare on the island. This harsh outburst by the former police chief was denounced by media and press associations as an attempt to intimidate, gag or induce prior censorship among journalists.