Puerto Rico


69th General Assembly

Denver, Colorado

October 18 – 22, 2013

The opening of courts to the press has signified a clear advance for press freedom. Since July 1, and for the first time in 56 years, photo and video cameras have been allowed in civil courts 904 and 907 of the San Juan Court of First Instance. In a pilot project, however, there will be allowed only one television camera and two photo cameras for each courtroom. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruling is that this pilot project will be evaluated after one year with a view to extending access to criminal courts. This change came about after a plea that had been made for decades by the Association of News Photographers of Puerto Rico that there be an amendment to Canon 15 of the Judicial Ethics, which prohibits the use of photo and video cameras in all courtrooms. That regulation was amended in April. The news photographers, together with the Puerto Rican Journalists Association, the Overseas Press Club and the Center for Press Freedom in Puerto Rico, expressed satisfaction at this decision but warned that they will continue calling for greater guarantees and that access to civil and criminal courts be permanent. The newspaper El Vocero, in the midst of a financial crisis, has been obliged to have recourse to protection under the Bankruptcy Law. Although with an already reduced operation its eventual shutdown would imply a setback for freedom of expression and moreover one for dozens of editors, reporters, designers and production workers.