05 March 2015


Political forces have made some attempts to curtail press freedom, especially as it relates to freedom of public information. In one such case, Justice Minister Cristina Ramírez Chavarría denied the request of La Nación journalist David Delgado for information on overcrowding in Costa Rican prisons. The Constitutional Court granted Delgado’s appeal for relief and ordered Ramírez to provide the information to him. The justice minister initially gave her assurance that she would furnish this information, but she later filed an appeal for “addition and clarification,” as allowed by the Law on Constitutional Jurisdiction, in an obvious attempt to hinder enforcement of the Constitutional Court’s ruling. This appeal was denied, however, and the justices again ordered the minister to provide the information. Still, Ramírez failed to meet this obligation. In another development, social-democratic legislator Rolando González asked the Presidential House for a list of the names of its visitors, but this request was denied by the executive branch on the grounds that excessive transparency would jeopardize national security and sovereignty. Last December, the Legislative Assembly, whose President is a member of the ruling party, together with members of two other parties, issued a rule preventing Congress officials from making declarations to any communications media. This measure led to a confrontation with communicators, and despite numerous complaints, legislators insisted on centralizing information originating in the Legislative Assembly. This case caused such a stir that a legislator from the National Liberation Party (PLN) appealed to  the Constitutional Court asking the Justices to declare said rule unconstitutional; however a ruling has yet to be issued on the matter. Another case representing a clear violation of freedom of the press and expression was the expulsion of journalists from the Congress chamber.  This was requested by another legislator from the governing party while the national budget was under discussion.   As a reason for this, Ottón Solís claimed security issues and limited infrastructure. In an act of rebellion and as a challenge to the press, the legislator said that he would not hesitate, despite the ruling, to remove as many journalists as they considered convenient from public chambers. Only last week, the President of the Republic, Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, used a national television channel to tell the country that the national communications media shows bias in their reporting of government activities.  He rebuked journalists and local businessmen and challenged editorial lines. From the moment he assumed power, Solís Rivera has appeared to be unhappy with and has engaged in confrontational behavior with the press. Meanwhile, a Radio and Television Law is being debated by Congress.  This law seeks to reduce frequency concession terms to a mere five years which severely restricts investment planning and determines editorial lines by subjecting concessions to permanent review by the government. Another draft bill sponsored by the President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) is before the Congress.  The bill seeks to force communications media to allocate advertising space during electoral periods. The draft bill articles seek to force the allocation by communications media companies of free space to political groups obtaining the largest percentage of votes during the elections. The media has indicated that this law shows bias and imposes a certain editorial line as well as representing a financial burden as advertising space must be allocated free of charge and during times slots chosen by the State.