Costa Rica

Report to the IAPA 76 General Assembly
October 21-23, 2020

During this period, there were several cases of obstruction of public information by the government and its agencies.

On May 12, Diario Extra appealed to the Constitutional Court to file an injunction against Carlos Alvarado, President of the Republic; Geannina Dinarte, Minister of Labor, and José Luis Bermúdez, Executive President of the Mixed Institute for Social Assistance (IMAS) and Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion, for withholding the lists of citizens benefiting from the Proteger bonus - subsidies given by the government due to the pandemic.

On May 29, the Medical Management of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) sent a circular reminding public hospital directors about who could speak and what they should say to the media. This action reportedly came after medical personnel informed that the protective supplies given to the workers were defective. The Attorney General's Office and Congress are investigating the purchase of the supplies - following complaints from the media.

In June, Yamileth Astorga, executive president of the Costa Rican Institute of Water and Sewage (AyA), asked the unions of the institution not to communicate with Diario Extra due to the questioning of the budget allocation and management of invoicing. Astorga also referred to the CrHoy website, arguing that both media promoted privatization. Diario Extra, CrHoy and several citizens filed injunctions before the Constitutional Court, arguing that Astorga promotes censorship and the withholding of information.

In August, the high constitutional court ruled on one of the cases and unanimously condemned Astorga. The magistrates concluded that the call to "not feed the media" is particularly serious, especially due to Astorga's hierarchy, and that in practice it becomes a kind of veiled censorship.

The sentence instructs Astorga not to incur again in this type of actions, under penalty of contempt of authority - punished with jail from 3 months to 2 years or with 20 to 60 days fine.

Citing instructions from the Central Government, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS) ordered its agencies not to purchase any more Diario Extra. The MTSS sent the official letter DGAF-OF-383-2020 to the Extra Group, to notify that the subscriptions would be cancelled. The measure would have been adopted after the injunction filed against Geannina Dinarte, Minister of Labor, for refusing to hand over data on the beneficiaries of the Proteger bonus subsidy.

On 16 July, Diario Extra filed an injunction against President Alvarado; Health Minister, Daniel Salas, and Communications Minister, Agustín Castro, for withholding public information.

The Association of Journalists of Costa Rica joined the appeal under file 20-012614-000, as well as Catalina Crespo, defender of the Inhabitants, who argued that the government's attitude is a threat to citizens in times of crisis.

The appeal was filed against the government because during the months of the pandemic it has infringed upon the right of access to information and freedom of the press, as well as the right to petition, as established in the Constitution.

The petition to the judges seeks an order requiring the administration to adopt a comprehensive, effective, and transparent information system, with no limitations or restrictions on access to information and the ability to ask questions and obtain answers from public officials dealing with the subject of the pandemic.

On July 31, the Constitutional Court condemned the Minister of Health, Salas Peraza, for denying information related to Covid-19 data.

The maximum court declared valid case number 20-011445-0007-CO filed by representatives of the media Interferencia de Radioemisoras of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) against the leader by communicators David Antonio Bolaños, Édgar Chavarría Hernández and Hilda Miranda Picado. According to the Constitutional Court, there is no valid justification to deny or condition the delivery of information - even in the present situation of the pandemic.

Journalists Óscar Ulloa Rojas and Luis Pablo Campos Salas were humiliated on national television during a press conference by a Presidential House official when they were questioning cabinet members on key issues.

President Alvarado called the national network media "boring" because they kept asking him the same questions about the handling of the pandemic.

Journalists from Channel 7, Repretel News and La Nación received verbal attacks and threats from groups and organizations during anti-government protests against new taxes.

Members of the Police Force guarded the facilities of Teletica, after a group of demonstrators gathered in front of its facilities to criticize its editorial line and closeness to the government of Alvarado.