Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz decision to throw out journalists during a debate Friday “evidences a lack of commitment to the democratic processes in which the people must always rule over the legislature, said Irma Lugo, president of the IA Puerto Rico Section.
Lugo noted that the Senate was evaluating and approving key legislation for the island [when the reporters were ejected], “and we [the people] have the right to know how and what the politicians we elect are deciding.
“It is important to remember that the Capitol as a public building should be the house of dialogue, openness and transparency,” said Lugo. “Although it does not necessarily imply that the legislators are making secret decisions under the table, this action does affect the purity of the process, undermines confidence in our legislature and creates unnecessary suspicions,” she said.
The human rights organization demanded that Schatz not repeat actions which threaten democracy and called on him to retract his decision to eject journalists from the legislature, and to apologize to the journalists and the people.
Amnesty International’s executive director Pedro Santiago called the action “not only an affront to freedom of the press, but also a restriction of the citizens’ right to monitor the work of the legislature.
“We have yet to hear a valid reason that justifies [the Senate President’s action],” said Santiago. “Any way you look at it, this is an intent to limit the democratic rights of the citizens, because not only does it violate press freedom, it also blocks access to information, an indispensable element for adequate monitoring by the citizens over the legislative branch. If we permit this today, tomorrow we will have a legislature making laws behind closed doors.”