By Natalia A. Bonilla-Berrios
SAN JUAN — More than ten media outlets and organizations have pledged to defend their constitutional right to freedom of the press after the unprecedented closure for two days of the Senate floor to reporters and the general public.
Newspapers such as El Nuevo Dia, Primera Hora, Vocero and organizations like the Overseas Press Club Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Journalist’s Association signed a declaration of rejection of Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz’s order to close all doors to the media from June 25-28.
Guard Norberto Torres, of internal security, stations himself in front of the gate and refuses to answer a reporter as to why he is impeding routine coverage of the legislative session (Photo: Primera Hora)
The signees agreed
that they will not negotiate the right for media coverage in every public building; they will remain unconditionally supportive of their fellow journalists and photojournalists, and they will continue with their responsibility to inform the people no matter the circumstances.
Mr. Schatz’s decision was triggered by recent press coverage of Senator Hector Martinez’s arrival at the federal courthouse where he was officially accused of corruption, conspiracy, organized crime and three other charges.
According to a press release issued by Schatz, “A small group of photojournalists departed from the usual and correct behavior as seen during previous coverages.”
Also, he explained that he sent an invitation to the media directors to meet on June 25th but they postponed the meeting until they gathered amongst themselves first to discuss the situation.
In the meantime, Schatz will conditionally open the Senate floor to every journalist or photojournalist who shows their media credentials to the Senate Communications Office. He also stated that the media must have their credentials visible at all times.
Helga I. Serrano, executive director of the Puerto Rican Freedom of the Press Center, made clear in a written statement
that it’s the duty of the press to investigate the government and when it is denied covering the legislative session, its job cannot be done.
Learn more about Natalia
Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science, International Relations. Natalia has a 3.90 GPA.
She was the former president of the UPR student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a member of the National Society of Collegiates and Scholars and was selected for the ‘Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges’ program, during her freshman year.
In addition, she has worked as an intern reporter for DiÃ¡logo Digital, Puerto Rican Center of Investigative Journalism, served as a staff writer for ParÃ©ntesis newspaper, and as a volunteer reporter for IDentidad magazine.
Bonilla has served as student representative for the Freedom of the Press Center of Puerto Rico and has been selected as one of the UWIRE’s Top 100 Student Journalists of 2009.
She was selected for the Student Camp at Unity 2008, the quadrennial Journalists of Color Convention and also, as a volunteer for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.