The journalistic unions and the media this afternoon condemned the verbal and bodily assaults that a number of journalists and photojournalists acquired whereas masking final night time, in Caguas, the arrest of a pair who refused to fill out the COVID-19 Alert Traveler Statement when he arrived at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
The Puerto Rico Journalists Association (Asppro), the Puerto Rico Photojournalists Association (AFPR) and the Overseas Press Club (OPC) signed a joint press launch through which they expressed their rejection of what they described as an assault in opposition to press freedom by dozens of residents who got here to the scene to assist Zulma Figueroa Córdova, 53 years outdated, Y Luis Angel Columbus, 44 years outdated.
According to the organizations, 4 photojournalists, three reporters and a information producer have been attacked whereas reporting how the couple barricaded themselves in an try to evade an arrest warrant issued by a Carolina Court decide. The couple was discovered trigger for arrest for violating article 246 of the Penal Code, which classifies as a much less critical crime the obstruction of the work of an official.
“Reporters and photojournalists are like any worker. We understand and accept that our profession exposes us to find ourselves in the midst of difficult and sometimes violent conflicts in which we may suffer collaterally. What is unacceptable are the violent attacks specifically directed at our colleagues when they only fulfill their duty to inform the people”He claimed Damaris Suarez, president of Asppro.
For his half, the president of the AFPR, Josian Bruno, categorized the assaults as unacceptable, understanding that they have been an try to limit the best to freedom of the press, backed by each the Constitution of Puerto Rico and that of the United States.
“What happened there was a direct attack on journalists that could be observed live through the images on television. Verbal and physical aggression against our colleagues is a reprehensible act ”, stated Bruno.
A photojournalist from The new day He was one of those attacked yesterday by citizens, who pushed him on multiple occasions and impeded his work by documenting the police intervention against Figueroa Córdova and Colón. He was even forced by the protesters to get into his motor vehicle and leave the scene.
Another photojournalist of this medium, who went to the Police barracks in Barrio Obrero, where they were expected to take the detained couple, was verbally assaulted and intimidated by the protesters who came to the scene.
A married couple accused of leaving the Luis Muñoz Marín worldwide airport with out filling out the necessary declaration on COVID-19 was locked in a automobile with minors for over two hours. (Alexis Cedeño)
A negotiator tried to get Zulma Figueroa and Luis Ángel Colón to cooperate with the authorities and get out of a crimson mini van. (Alexis Cedeño)
The events occurred when personnel from the Police Bureau and the Health Department arrived in Caguas to serve out an arrest warrant against the marriage after not appearing this afternoon for a hearing scheduled in the Carolina Court of First Instance. (Alexis Cedeño)
A decide set them a bond of $ 10,000. (Alexis Cedeño)
Zulma Figueroa’s brother with lawyer Axel Concepción Acosta. (Alexis Cedeño)
“Although journalists know the dangers we can face in the exercise of our profession, We call on the authorities of law and order to take measures that allow the free exercise of our informative work, while safeguarding the right of citizens to demonstrate, guaranteeing the physical integrity, life and property of all “, said, for his part, the president of the OPC, Luis Guardiola.
During yesterday’s altercation, citizens repeatedly prevented photojournalists from filming the intervention of Police and Health Department officials with the couple. The officers spent several hours in a negotiation process with the accused so that they surrendered.
“It is unacceptable and incomprehensible that an attempt is made to hinder this work that serves its own benefit and that of the rest of society,” the journalistic unions said.
The journalists were kept within the perimeter established by the Police at all times.
Rafael Lama Bonilla, CEO of GFR Media, also condemned the attacks.
“The verbal and physical attacks that various journalists in the country experienced on Tuesday, including two photojournalists from GFR Media, are unacceptable acts that, through intimidation and aggression, tried to obstruct the search for the truth and the right of the press. to inform our audiences. We cannot forget that press freedom is a vital tool to defend democracy”, He expressed.
“Unfortunately, the attacks on Tuesday, led by a small group of protesters, demonstrated a gross threat and a clear challenge to that constitutional right. For this, GFR Media joins Asppro, OPC and the Association of Photojournalists in condemning these attacks and we ask the authorities to vigorously ensure that these abuses are not repeated. Defending and ensuring the freedom of the press should not be an arbitrary action, but a consistent mission with the ulterior purpose of protecting the rights of all citizens, “added Lama Bonilla.
During the altercation, protesters yelled in the ears of reporters to leave the scene and baselessly accused the press of manipulating information about the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. That was the case of the reporter from News Wilenie Sepulveda.
“What happened last night while our reporter Wilenie Sepúlveda and our photojournalist Eric Aguirre covered the arrest of the couple who barricaded themselves in Caguas was unacceptable. Our mission has always been to inform the country in a responsible, accurate and respectful way for our profession and above all for our public. Given this, We condemn the physical and verbal aggression suffered by our work team and the media in general. That should never happen”Stated the Vice President of News of Telemundo Puerto Rico, Dialma Santiago.
While, Rafael Lenin López, who heads the News Department of Wapa TelevisionHe expressed surprise at what he classified as a “hostile setting” that was not controlled by the law and order authorities.
“We are alarmed to see how the hostile environment developed under the eyes of the Police and Health officials without the basic intervention that is expected when a tension between two parties is observed. Last night, we contacted officials from both agencies and let them know of our concern. I denounced to them that we were not protected, not as journalists, but as citizens, victims of hostility that could have escalated. We were promised that they would attend to similar situations in the future, ”said Lenín López.
For its part, Lenard Liberman, President of TeleOnce, indicated that “our commitment will always be to bring our viewers the truth and what happens at the moment in the country. Our reporters and photojournalists will always have the support of our company for their dedication and professionalism, bringing the correct information and with the utmost respect ”.
Figueroa Córdova and Colón appeared today at a court hearing in which a trial against them was scheduled for February 8. The appearance of both was virtually because the man tested positive for COVID-19, this newspaper learned.
Both face a charge for obstruction of the work of an official and are exposed to six months in prison or a fine of up to $ 5,000, or both, subject to the discretion of a court.