El Nuevo Dia Settles Suit vs. Puerto Rico Gov

By Fitzgerald, Mark | Editor & Publisher, May 15, 1999 | Go to article overview

El Nuevo Dia Settles Suit vs. Puerto Rico Gov


Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher


Puerto Rican government advertising will begin running again in El Nuevo Dia next week - two years after the San Juan tabloid alleged the island's governor punished the paper for its investigative stories by pulling ads worth $6 million annually.

El Nuevo Dia reached a settlement May 11 in its federal lawsuit against Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello and six other top officials. Under terms of the agreement, the government will begin publishing ads in El Nuevo Dia within 15 days and will schedule future media ads from its $30 million annual budget by using "objective criteria such as the cost per thousand readers reached," the newspaper says in a statement.

In its lawsuit filed Dec. 9, 1997, El Nuevo Dia contended Rossello ordered 18 government agencies to pull their ads from El Nuevo Dia because he was angry about articles on alleged government corruption. In addition, the newspaper alleged the Rossello administration also tried to punish the paper by shutting down construction projects that were contracted to Puerto Rico Cement, a company partly owned by the family that owns El Nuevo Dia.

"Since the 14th of April (1997), El Nuevo Dia has been subjected to a systematic campaign by the Rossello administration to block our reporters from access to government news," the newspaper's president and editor, Antonio Luis Ferre, said at the time the lawsuit was filed.

Under terms of the settlement, the construction projects will be restarted and El Nuevo Dia reporters will have equal access to public documents and news. For its part, the paper and the cement company agreed to drop its demand for unspecified millions of dollars in damages.

Rossello denied the allegations in the lawsuit, saying the ads were pulled because the newspaper's rates were too high. At 200,000 circulation, El Nuevo Dia is the second-largest on the island, trailing only the 257,000-circulation El Vocero.

As part of the settlement, Rossello on May 11 signed an executive order acknowledging that government advertising cannot be used "in reprisal for news coverage." Government ad expenditures must be based on objective criteria such as the reach and cost-efficiency of a particular media business, the order says.

In a statement, Rossello says the settlement "puts our people's interest first. …

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