Costa Rica


Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

During this period, the behavior of President Rodrigo Chaves against media and journalists continued to impact press freedom.
On December 5, President Chaves criminally sued the newspaper La Nación and the former Minister of Communication Patricia Navarro for divulging some audios, recorded by her, about the hiring of a communication strategist with funds donated by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). The director of the media, Armando González, stated that they had fulfilled the "duty" that journalists must "inform society about matters of public interest" that come to their knowledge. According to legal experts, the possibility of the accusation succeeding is minimal.

In a legislative appearance on April 1, Yanancy Noguera, president of the College of Journalists, revealed that, after an investigation conducted by that institution, they determined that a group of protesters who assaulted a journalist and a cameraman from the news program TV Once (now defunct) had constant communication and links with three deputies from the government faction. It led to intense verbal attacks against the College and its president by the head of that faction, Pilar Cisneros, President Chaves, and the Minister of Communication.

Noguera was summoned to testify by a legislative commission established on September 13 to investigate the governmental handling of state advertising. The commission still needs to issue its report. Still, various witnesses revealed irregularities in the management of the guidelines through an "advertising agency" of the National System of Radio and Television, owned by the State.

On April 4, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that a series of statements issued by President Chaves and then Health Minister Joselyn Chacón affected freedom of expression and could encourage harassment against journalists and media outlets. This assessment is part of the complete vote of the sentence that, on May 23, 2023, declared a writ of protection filed against both officials by journalist Jason Ureña, who was then working for the digital media CRHoy, to be admissible. In a press conference on January 9, 2023, Chaves and Chacón described Ureña and other journalists from La Nación and the news program Telenoticias as a "gang," "political hitmen," "damned," "hired killers," and "a bunch of wolves."
On April 4, the Superintendency of Telecommunications (SUTEL), an independent technical body of the Executive Power, rejected in a statement what it called "insinuations" by President Chaves against it. The president implied that SUTEL intends to favor some radio and television stations with the allocation of frequencies and could be responsible for a "blackout" of frequencies.

Most of the concessions will expire on June 28. Still, SUTEL revealed that, so far, the Executive still needs to clarify whether it wishes to extend the existing ones or hold a new contest for their granting. Since taking office on May 8, 2022, President Chaves has referred to the frequencies with ambiguous language, generating uncertainty about the future of the concessions.

In a positive development, on November 4, the Constitutional Chamber accepted a writ of protection against the Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodríguez Vives, for violating the fundamental rights of three journalists from the information verification media Doble Check, from the University of Costa Rica, by failing to fulfill his obligation to provide public information. The writ of protection had been filed on September 6 by journalists David Bolaños, Isaura Gutiérrez, and Arianna Villalobos after being denied requested data on five occasions.

On March 31, British journalist Karl Penhaul was prevented from entering the country and had his passport retained while traveling from Spain. Penhaul spent two days confined at the Juan Santamaría International Airport. The journalist described the decision as "forced detention." He said he intended to meet with independent journalists with whom he collaborates. Immigration authorities and the Minister of Public Security provided reasons for this decision, only indicating that the journalist was not suitable for entry. However, it was known that Penhaul is included on a U.S. government "no-fly" list.

On March 21, the Constitutional Chamber accepted for study a writ of protection filed by journalists from the newspaper Extra, the television program Noticias Repretel, and the digital media CRHoy. The writ is against three officials for obstructing journalists' work: Natalia Díaz, Minister of the Presidency; Jaffrey Cerdas, director of the Special Intervention Unit (UEI); and Martha Esquivel, president of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund.

The journalists were obstructed during an appearance by Esquivel before a legislative commission by the official's bodyguards and an agent of the UEI.