Costa Rica Officials Assault Press Freedom



QCOSTARICA – Top officials of the Legislative Assembly have attempted to gag the press, requiring news to be channeled through a member of the elite committee steering congressional affairs, bringing into question as to just what country’s congress they think they are members of.

The accord came on Dec. 10 by agreement of three lawmakers, including Henry Mora, president of the body. But National Liberation Party lawmaker Roland Gonzalez, immediately filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court Chamber (Sala IV), charging violation of free speech and press freedom.

We have often said that few politicians, once they gain office, pay attention to press freedom, preferring to conduct public affairs in the shadows — deep blackness, if possible. So it appears with Mora, first congressional secretary Luis Vasquez and second secretary Jorge Rodriguez who signed the accord.

Mora is, of course, a member of the Citizen Action Party which ran a campaign promising transparency in government. The latter two are Social Christian Unity members, few of whose colleagues are probably in accord with the gag order.

Vasquez even went so far as to tell La Nacion, “What we did was to strengthen a 2009 accord that all institutions use that utilizes an official spokesman. Here, we’ve been giving out information on accords that haven’t been totally finished.” That he would attempt to justify the move shows where he’s coming from.

Jorge Rodriguez, La Nacion reported, when asked to comment on the system, “ran screaming that he was not going to make statements to the paper.” It was a weird performance for an official elected in a free society.

According to the agreement, lawmaker Antonio Ayales, the executive director of the steering body of congress, was named the go-to person for news reporters. Ayales seemed to not see anything amiss with this job, explaining that he would give technical information and data to the press.

“For me,” Ayales said, “that spokesman is to channel through me…” He did not seem to realize that that is the objection that the press has with this arrangement. He who controls the flow of information controls the news. “Never has it been the sense to limit criteria or opinion,” he told the paper.

Like most politicians, Ayales seems to equate reporting with opinion. It is fair to say that when a politician finds himself on the short end of an issue or is discovered doing something wrong, it is the opinion of the news medium or reporters that is expressed. Apparently they think that if the press is not against them, the newshounds would let them get away with it.

Moreover, reporters like to dig out the facts for themselves so they know that they are not being fed distorted facts or being stonewalled. Now, this blog has nothing against Ayales but his avid embracing of the job of “channeling” news shows he doesn’t understand the nature or importance of news to a democracy.

(Article by Rod Huges,