Puerto Rico


Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

Access to information continues to be the country's main problem for press freedom.

In recent years, organizations such as the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) have turned to the courts with requests for information to order public bodies to comply with the right to access information.

In December, the CPI sued the Department of Health for the fifth time for failing to provide public information and ignoring requests for data and reports related to its response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the 2020 earthquakes, and Hurricane Fiona in 2022. The lawsuit asks the Court to order the provision of information in compliance with Article 4 of the Transparency Law and the constitutional principles on access.

The Transparency Law establishes as public policy that the information and documentation produced by the government are presumed public and accessible to all people equally.

In November, the CPI presented a unique appeal for access to public information before the Court of First Instance in San Juan for the Tourism Company to provide a list of short-term rental accommodations in the country. Tourism denied the request, alleging that it contained confidential information about taxes.

A March 6 Supreme Court decision recognizing journalists' privilege in defamation cases was called historic. The ruling sets an essential precedent in protecting press freedom and the confidentiality of journalistic sources. The decision has its origins in a libel lawsuit filed on December 18, 2020, by José R. Izquierdo II, former executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, against columnist and analyst Enrique "Kike" Cruz, of the newspaper El Vocero, for a column published in December 2017 in which it was reported that the official had engaged in sexual harassment, which led to his dismissal and other damages.

During the process, the journalist did not identify the people mentioned in the column and refused to reveal his sources because it constituted a privileged matter. The Court supported him, but the Court of Appeals overturned the decision. The journalist appealed to the Supreme Court, which established that although no specific laws enshrine the protection of journalistic sources, the Constitution protects the work of journalism and its confidential sources within the principles of freedom of expression and of the press.

The highest Court noted that in situations where the identification of journalistic sources is required, such as in defamation cases, courts must balance the interests of the parties and evaluate various criteria before ordering the disclosure of information.

In December, the Overseas Press Club organization launched the public campaign "The Journalism that Unites Us" to raise citizens' awareness of journalism's importance.