U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Broadcast reporter struck by a rubber bullet while covering Puerto Rico protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 15, 2019


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Gabriella N. Baez

Demonstrators in San Juan, Puerto Rico, called for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló for nearly two weeks in protests that left several injured.

— REUTERS/Gabriella N. Baez
July 15, 2019

NotiCentro WAPA-TV broadcast reporter Orlando Rivera Martinez was injured while covering protests in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 15, 2019.

Rivera was covering protests outside La Fortaleza, the official residence of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, where demonstrators were gathered for the third night to demand the governor’s resignation.

“During the nights, authorities have been shooting gas and rubber bullets at the protesters,” Rivera told the Committee to Protect Journalists, a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “And I — and a lot of journalists — have been close by, in the middle of it.”

It was under these conditions that Rivera said he and his photographer were shot at. Rivera told CPJ that he was struck by one, and the overwhelming pain caused him to fall.

Rivera continued documenting the protests that night, however, but sought safer ground on a third-story balcony to keep observing the protests.

“And then, a protester threw a rock at the police and I got hit in the abdomen,” Rivera told CPJ. The Tracker has documented that incident here.

In a video posted by WAPA-TV, Rivera can be seen laying down on the floor, writhing in pain and tapping his right side where a bruise appears to be forming.

Security forces told La Estrella de Panamá that 10 people were injured that night, including several policemen and “a journalist, who was attacked with a stone.”

Rivera told CPJ that while no one had expected the scale of the protests, his station did provide him with a gas mask and a bulletproof vest. He also said that while some protesters were aggressive and did not want to be filmed, he and his photographer didn’t encounter much hostility.

When asked if he would continue documenting the protests moving forward, Rivera said, “Yes I will. And if it gets aggressive and violent, I will try to find a safe spot—though you never know.”

On July 24, after multiple nights of protests, Gov. Rosselló announced he would step down on Aug. 2.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].