16 October 2014
A good climate of freedom of the press and of expression prevails, although there are governmental practices that are affecting journalists’ right to privacy and protection of their sources. In a ruling made this year that sets case law and defends the work of the press the Supreme Court established that a legal order by a public prosecutor to obtain information on the cel phone of a television reporter violated constitutional right to privacy. The case goes back to 2003 when Carlos Weber, a reporter for “Las Noticias” on Univisión Canal 11, learned that the Justice Department’s Special Investigations Unit (NIE) had asked the Cingular company for records of his cel phone, without his awareness or authorization. Weber had been alerted by an agent that an anti-organized crime operation would be held and the NIE was investigating said leaking of information, which represents a tracking of the source’s identity. Weber filed suit against the government, alleging that his rights to privacy had been violated. A majority of the court judges held that the government had gone too far and that the journalist had reasonable expectation of privacy, which had been violated. Judge Gustavo Gelpi of the San Juan Federal Court issued an order to establish the rules and conditions to be followed in interviews that journalists would have with the monitor, Arnaldo Claudio, in charge of supervising the process of reform of the Puerto Rico Police, ordered as a result of indications of a pattern of violations of civil rights by police officers. The problem with the order, with a deadline of 30 days, was that it required journalists to send in their questions in advance and these not be “sensationalist nor political questions” about the process. This gave rise to criticism by press organizations (such as the Center for Press Freedom) and the Bar Association. The Association of Journalists of Puerto Rico and the Overseas Press Club condemned attacks suffered by reporters and news photographers that in June covered protests by labor unions of the Electrical Energy Authority (AEE) and the Aqueducts and Sewage Authority (AAA) outside the Legislative Assembly. Those attacked were reporters Francisco Rodríguez Burns of GFR Media, Charito Fraticelli and Luis Guardiola of Telemundo Canal 2 and Univisión Canal 11 photographer Dennis Rivera Bello.