Costa Rica

Report to the Midyear Meeting 2023
April 25-27

There were no severe press freedom violations during this period, and President Rodrigo Cháves reduced the tone and consistency of stigmatizing statements against the independent and critical press.

On April 16, photojournalist Mauricio Aguilar, from Diario Extra, was the victim of an assault and detention by a police officer while covering a homicide in front of La Reforma prison in San Rafael de Alajuela. The photographer, carrying his identification, reported that the agents claimed his presence at the scene and asked him not to photograph the people present. Then, one of the police officers attacked him, breaking the lens of his camera, causing the photojournalist to fall to the ground and injuring himself in the nose.

Aguilar denounced that the police officers kept him locked up for an hour in the patrol cell along with the suspect in the homicide. The incident generated a wave of criticism from organizations dedicated to monitoring press freedom in the country.

On March 6, the Criminal Court of the Second Judicial Circuit of San José convicted journalist Marlon Mora, former director of Canal Quince, for two counts of defamation, in a case presented by lawyer and former presidential candidate Juan Diego Castro. He will have to pay a fine of 600,000 colones (about US$1,000) and another 15 million colones (approximately US$27,000) as compensation for moral damages and legal costs. During the 2018 electoral campaign, Mora was director of the Channel of the University of Costa Rica that broadcast the program "Suave un Toque." In that space, statements were made about Castro, who in 2019 sued the journalist, the presenter Claudia Campos, and the University of Costa Rica.

In January, the Journalists Guild (Colper) criticized and described as "unacceptable" the insults and intolerance towards the press by President Rodrigo Chaves. The president branded as "political hitmen" the journalists who reported on alleged payments that the Minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón, would have made to a social media troll to discredit journalists from CRHoy and opposition legislators.

The president assured that Chacón was being "attacked" in retaliation for the policies that touched the interests of power groups accustomed to "removing and replacing" presidents and ministers through the media. He then quoted the media La Nación, Channel 7, and CRHoy.

Still pending before the Legislative Assembly are bills on Access to Public Information and a Radio Law reform. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal presented a project to regulate new forms of political propaganda.

The press conferences the presidency offered on Wednesdays were normalized, and there were no incidents or restrictions against journalists.