Journalists sue the Government of Puerto Rico for penalizing "false news"

WASHINGTON, (FUNDAMEDIOS USA).- We'd like to share an alert of protest and concern Fundamedios has issued, regarding the restrictions against freedom of expression in Puerto Rico following the lawsuit filed by Puerto Rican journalists Sandra Rodríguez Cotto and Rafelli González.

Both journalists are challenging the constitutionality of a pair of laws that seek to penalize - with up to 6 months of jail - those who disclose "false news" or "decisions made by the government during a state of emergency" that may cause confusion to the public.

The plaintiffs contend the statutes, arguing that they fail to accurately define "what speech may constitute a crime", and as a result providing ample discretion to the government to decide whom to punish, giving authorities the opportunity to intimidate, silence and prosecute journalists who investigate the government's management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this regulation, the Government of Puerto Rico clearly violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and the international standards of Freedom of Expression.

Rodríguez Cotto and González are Puerto Rican investigative reporters with a long and distinguished journalistic trajectory, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Federal Court.

This alert is part of the watchdog work carried out by Fundamedios in the context of our commitment to defend the rights to press freedom and access to information for journalists since 2007 in Latin America.

As part of our monitoring in the United States, we are developing a study to analyze the main challenges that Hispanic journalists face in exercising their rights. We are interested in finding out, among other things, if Hispanic journalists in the U.S. have the same access to sources of information as their non-Hispanic peers, and if they face discrimination in labor opportunities, such as promotions or wages. We'd like to hear your experience, and invite you to fill out a short survey on this topic:

Finally, we also want to share the link to a recent digital forum held recently, featuring our colleagues Maritza Félix from Conecta Arizona (AZ), Diego Barahona from La Noticia (NC), Gustavo Martínez Contreras from Asbury Park Press (NJ) and Hugo Balta NAHJ. They discussed the main challenges faced by Latino journalists working in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Frank LaRue and Dagmar Thiel as moderators.

Our next virtual discussion will be on Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 pm ET and when we will address the situation of freedom of expression in Puerto Rico. We will send more details soon.here is the link to the discussion with colleagues Maritza Félix from Conecta Arizona (AZ), Diego Barahona from La Noticia (NC), Gustavo Martí-nez Contreras from Asbury Park Press (NJ) and Hugo Balta NAHJ. Together, these 4 journalists tackled Frank LaRue and Dagmar Thiel the main challenges faced by Latino journalists working in the USA in the days of COVID-19.
About FUNDAMEDIOS:

Fundamedios is a civil society organization committed to the defense of human rights in particular freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and access to information to advance transparency as pillars of democracy in Latin America. It has been in existence since 2007. After working for over a decade in Latin America we established a Washington office and registered as a 501 c 3 to build bridges among both regions as well as to work with Hispanic journalists in the U.S.

Fundamedios is one of the leading organizations of Voces del Sur, a CSOs' collective that reports progress toward implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 16 regarding peace, justice and strong institutions. The network of fundamental freedom organizers developed regional standards for monitoring and dissemination of alerts regarding freedom of expression in 10 countries. The report has been reviewed by UNESCO as part of the UN's High-Level Review of SDG 16 in July 2019.To learn more about FUNDAMEDIOS, please visit www.fundamedios.org.

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