Costa Rica


IAPA Midyear Meeting 2017

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

March 31 – April 3


Several court rulings had negatively and positively affected press freedom during this period.

Regarding access to public information the Constitutional Court rectified the ruling that supported the introduction of a secret password in an electronic file with data of public interest requested by the weekly newspaper El Financiero of the Banco de Costa Rica bank. According to the bank the requirement to give access to pieces of information of public interest was respected, because the institution delivered the files. However, the password prevented analysis of the information in a computer and to do so manually demanded much time and many resources. In practice it was as if the data had not been delivered.

The resolution was taken in the absence of the majority of the judges and was a surprise for its distance from current jurisprudence to date. A new case, voted on by the usual makeup of the Court, clarified the unconstitutionality of using this kind of subterfuge to annul the right to access public information.

The Constitutional Court condemned the use of official advertising to reward or punish news media's editorial and news stances. La Nación managed to show and denounce a scandalous case of reprisal with advertisement placement carried out by the state-owned Banco Nacional. Diario Extra made a similar denunciation regarding the Banco de Costa Rica bank, also state-owned.

The Court described the practice as a "perverse censorship" and "a form of illegitimate harassment." It is "undemocratic" to use public money to steer opinion, said the judges in calling for an end to the arbitrary action.

The Public Revenue and Expenditure Committee of the Legislative Assembly also studied the case and condemned the use of the banks' advertising to put pressure on news media. Committee members submitted to the full house a bill to punish those engaging in such practices.