We will be very clear here: ever since we published a Wednesday night story in English about how the Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice secretly secured a search warrant in 2017 targeting the social media pages of three student journalism outlets during their coverage of the university strikes, our team has been trying to get comments in English from the government of Puerto Rico and governor Wanda Vázquez.
We had legitimate questions about the warrant, since Vázquez was the Secretary of Justice when the search warrant was signed by a judge two years ago.
We wanted to ask the governor if she knew about the warrant, and how it was used to obtain the personal information of student journalists and followers of the respective sites.
We also wanted to ask the governor if she agreed that the very ambiguous warrant was a direct attack on press freedom, the Constitution of Puerto Rico and also the First Amendment (Vázquez is a supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico, so it’s a valid question).
Granted, the governor did talk to local press in Spanish on Wednesday, but so far, we have yet to see Vázquez give any comments in English, since last time we checked, we are an English-language outlet that covers news out of Puerto Rico, as well as other parts of the U.S. Latino and Latin American world.
On Wednesday, Vázquez’s initial comments in Spanish about this warrant lacked clarity. She noted that the warrant was not an attack on press freedom, but the explanation provided left so many other questions unanswered. Sure, we could translate what she said, but we also feel that it is important that we publish her quotes in the same language we asked the questions.
So, on Wednesday night, our founder sent an email to Fortaleza’s press team.
He followed up on Thursday morning with the same request.
He did it again later on Thursday.
Still no reply.
Last update: Just left a message to @fortalezapr press team. Was able to leave a voice mail on one phone and the other call is not taking messages. I just told them straight up that @wandavazquezg does not want to respond to our multiple requests for comment. It's been 12 hours.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) October 10, 2019
He even made a phone call with one press officer and left a voice mail. Still no answer. Another phone call to another press officer didn’t even give the option of leaving a message.
More than 12 hours (and counting) have passed now and Latino Rebels has gotten no response at all from anyone at Fortaleza. Not even a “we got your emails and messages.”
The question is why?
This is not complicated. Our questions are pretty simple and relevant. The department that the current governor of Puerto Rico once led had issued a warrant to target the work of journalists when she was the department’s secretary. What was the alleged crime against these outlets? Why issue a search warrant? What evidence did the Department of Justice have against student journalists that it resulted in a warrant?
We think the governor has an obligation to answer these questions. Not just in Spanish too. Last time we checked, the interest for news out of Puerto Rico outside of the local media space has never been stronger.
The government of Puerto Rico always shares official statements in English, although ever since the Ricardo Rosselló administration was no longer, the amount of English statements and answers from Fortaleza have decreased, and if we are really honest about it, its team does very little to reply to journalists like us these days.
So instead of actually being treated like journalists, we are being ignored, but if the current governor of Puerto Rico thinks we will just walk away from this, we will be clear—we will keep asking these questions to get her on record.
Just a few weeks ago, Fortaleza had agreed to an interview with us and Vázquez. We followed up and nothing has happened. Now, it doesn’t want to answer our requests.
That’s not a democracy, and we won’t stay silent.