Costa Rica

2018 - Midyear Meetng 2018
Medellín, Colombia

In this period the "Cementazo" (Cementing) case, so called by the national press and which revealed the links of the three branches of government with a businessman who imports Chinese cement, putting in evidence a network of trafficking of influences and million-dollar bank credits, hurt the practice of journalism.

Publications by the newspaper Diario Extra and digital media CrHoy during two years led to raids on Congressmen's offices, the dismissal of a Supreme Court judge and the linking of President Luis Gullermo Solís, which gave rise to episodes of prior censorship and later threats to the editors of those media and the reporters in charge of the investigations.

In the case of Diario Extra the threats were brought before the judicial authorities, after the China cement businessman ordered to go after and scare and photograph the press teams that were investigating. Similarly, there are evident audios of lawyers and officials linked to the case, threatening with criminal and civil lawsuits.

From the judicial headquarters police protection was offered to the journalists.

In early November Diario Extra denounced the existence of a plan of destabilization against it consisting of discrediting it before the Ethical Tribunal of the Journalists Guild, filing lawsuits and suspending official advertising, among other means of pressure, in reprisal for its denunciations and publications about acts of corruption in the public administration.

The denunciation was confirmed by the Attorney General's Office on examining documents seized at the management office of the state Bank of Costa Rica, in which are revealed details of those plans that showed a strategic plan to weaken Diario Extra, using three national media, which were Canal 7 television, La Nación and

The evidence was found in a raid on the bank offices as part of the investigation. The IAPA condemned the reprisal and urged that the denunciation be investigated and those responsible be identified.

The Crhoy director received police assistance following the threats against her in the same case and denounced on multiple occasions the blockade carried out by the Executive Branch of her media outlet ordered by President Luis Guillermo Solís and Presidency Minister Sergio Alfaro, who on social media did not fail to take advantage of the opportunity to discredit her without any basis whatsoever.

Solís rebuked the national media, saying that the revelations of the case were ill-intentioned against his administration and adding, "I have them identified, I know who they are."

Another of the points that denounced occurred during the political campaigns for the 2018 presidential elections, Costa Rican politicians used social media to establish a unilateral communication with the electorate, without allowing questioning by the independent press. The strategy was not successful, mostly because important sectors of the press refused to echo the unilateral messages.

In the three phases of the electoral campaign – the internal conventions of the parties, the first electoral round and the final round – there were strong attacks on news media and journalists. The most intense ones, which included threats and campaigns to cancel subscriptions or cease viewing a television channel, were given in the final stage. In many cases the attacks had as the target the editors of La Nación and Telenoticias of Canal 7 television.

A politician branded the newspaper La Nación as a "diabolical rag" and its journalists as "psychopaths." He went on to say that if he assumed the Presidency that media's print edition would cease circulating in a year, afterwards he clarified that the newspaper would stop circulating because it is not profitable. He also mounted an attack against the University Weekly of the University of Costa Rica and television station Repretel. His declarations were condemned by the Costa Rica Journalists Guild.

The First Report on the State of Freedom of Expression, drawn up by the Program of Freedom of Expression, Right to Information and Public Opinion (PROLEDI) and the Communication Investigations Center (CICOM), of the University of Costa Rica, revealed in January that the media groups with greatest concentration are those that receive most official advertising. Between 2015 and 2016 REPRETEL-Albavisión (Ángel González) and Televisora de Costa Rica (TELETICA) are those that received most official advertising, some $4 million each.

A total of 60% of the TV channels in the country are profit-driven, of this number Ángel González' group has more than 20% of the commercial television channels and TELETICA 11.6%.

In November the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly passed a bill that would promote transparency within the government apparatus and access to public information by the citizenry, which scares because among the articles it gives a very important role to the government's TV channel to control content and also gives abusive time slots to public institutions to answer journalists' questions.

It is not possible that a country with too much bureaucracy still wants to implement an additional office within the ministries to say who and when to deal with the questions of the media, giving the administration all the public information to officials who do not know how to handle the press nor the importance of the people's right to be duly informed.

In addition, there exist two bills promoted from the Executive Branch called Law on Freedom of Expression and of the Press and Law on Access to Information that limit the practice of journalism and go against the independence of the Costa Rican media, giving powers to the govenrment that do not correspond to it beyond its role of caretaker of human rights.

Most of the national media oppose the proposal, considering it abusive and reiterative of the more than 30 juridical regulations and the rulings of the Constititional Tribunal that already support access to public information in Costa Rica.

The Elections Supreme Tribunal of Costa Rica ruled that news media cannot censor messages of political groups that are contracted through paid fields in electoral processes but very rightly they exempt them from civil solidarity responsibility in the face of eventual lawsuits.