Costa Rica


Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

Freedom of the press and of expression has been violated on multiple occasions during this period.

On July 26 in front of the installations of Televisora de Costa Rica and Cable Tica three subjects set off a home-made bomb, producing partial damages to the plant. The Judicial Investigation Body inspected the scene and determined that this artifact was an extinguisher full of explosives that had a timer and was placed at the base of an electricity pylon. The case remains under investigation and the motive is unknown.

Ignacio Santos, director of Channel 7 Telenoticias, expressed his repudiation of the attack and assured that despite having suffered threats they had never come about.

Greivin Rodríguez, correspondent of the newspaper Diario Extra, was arrested. Members of the police force handcuffed him, locked him up in a police truck and without motive held him in a cell for more than four hours. The events took place in Orotina, Alajuela, when Rodríguez was gathering information about an apparent crime. At the scene a criminal judge stopped him from taking photographs and interviewing police officers. He was stripped of his cell phone and video camera and their contents removed.

Reporters and photographers of digital media CRHoy and El Observador, as well as TV channels Repretel and Telenoticias, were direct victims of the repression by some labor union groups that were holding strong strikes over payment and public employment issues.

Photographer John Durán of La Nación complained that on September 3 he was physically and verbally attacked and his camera was damaged by protesters when he was covering a protest called by the educators labor union outside the Legislative Assembly. Jerry Alfaro, news director of Channel 6's Repretel News, and Silvia Ulloa, director of CRHoy, said that their reporting equipment had been broken into and they had been intimidated in their coverage of the news. A journalist of El Observador had his telephone seized and he was thrown to the floor, as a demonstration of displeasure at the media's coverage.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado, a journalist by profession, recommended to his ministers and other members of the cabinet to remain silent in the face of questions by communicators, which must be sent in by e-mail in order to be dealt with. In the press conferences there chosen the media that can make questions and it is forbidden to repeat them.

Recently Communication Minister Nancy Marin met with a group of journalists at government offices and she warned them that she would not permit any more claims or manifestations about the acting of the president's press group, as she would be ready to file denunciations.

The federal government continues blocking news media that complain of irregularities in its governance and hired the agency Bambu Capital Sociedad Anónima to counteract and deny reports by the media.

In Congress there are several bills that represent a threat to the practice of journalism, among them number 21187 which seeks to punish news offenses and others on fake news that could be used against media contents.

The law would imply imprisonment of up to four years of anyone who disseminated news characterized as false.

Another bill for a Law on Extinction of Ownership seeks the confiscation of assets without penal sentence. The bill does not clearly define to which offenses does the extinction of ownership apply and there is a latent danger that this law would become an instrument for the government to pursue and remove the possessions of honest citizens or independent news media.

On August 9, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice condemned the College of Journalists of Costa Rica (Colper) for threatening to denounce the people who work and present themselves as journalists without having a university degree or without being associated, following of two writs raised separately by two journalists. After analyzing the complaints, the magistrates unanimously concluded that the journalist is the one who regularly or regularly dedicates himself to informing, and highlighted the definition that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights supports of this profession (Advisory Opinion oc-5/85 of 13 November 1985) that "the professional journalist is not, nor can it be, anything other than a person who has decided to exercise freedom of expression in a continuous, stable and remunerated manner". They added that Colper's message represents a "clear violation of the provisions of article 28 of the Political Constitution" which states that no one can be disturbed or persecuted for the expression of their opinions. The sentence ordered Colper to publish a statement according to the guidelines of the sentence.

On October 1, the IAPA office received a communication from one of the complainants in which he said that while Colper "complied with the sentence and published in his Facebook account the statement required by the constitutional magistrates, that same afternoon He launched a campaign insinuating that only graduates of a degree in journalism are guarantors of freedom of the press and information."

The Advisory Opinion of 1985 derived a request from the IAPA to the government of Costa Rica to consult the Inter-American Court on compulsory registration. This stressed that all membership must be voluntary only.