Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court – Sala IV as it is popularly known – gave its consent for anyone to record police operations in order to avoid injustice.
The court decision was announced by the Semanario Universidad, the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) publication where the journalist assaulted during the confrontation of officers of the Fuerza Publica (National Police) works.
On the night of September 12, 2018, in the midst of a protest by university students protesting against the Fiscal Reform (Plan Fiscal), UCR journalist Javier Córdoba Morales was told by a police officer that he could not record (on his smartphone) the event.
Cordoba filed a ‘writ of habeas corpus’ with the Sala IV.
Based on the evidence presented by the parties in this case, the Court determined that Córdoba was “peacefully filming the demonstration,” without interfering in the actions of the Police.
When the reporter recorded with his cell phone, officer Roberto Monge Calvo launched himself against him, “with the clear intention of hindering the filming that he carries out, affecting his neck and face, causing him to fall to the ground, at which point he tries to hit him with his police stick,” verified the magistrates.
Córdoba identified himself as a reporter and the police aggression stopped. However, the judges considered that it was an action “clearly unjustified and therefore arbitrary”.
“Official Roberto Monge Calvo does not provide any element of judgment that explains why he turns around and lashes out against the plaintiff,” said the Constitutional Court magistrates.
A commission investigating the events that occurred that day determined that the police were the first to attack students and not the opposite as initially stated by the Fuerza Publica
The magistrates emphasized that, regardless of whether a person is a journalist or not, he or she has the right to record such type of police activities on recordings, as part of his or her right to freedom of expression.
The ruling also means that any citizen (whether a journalist or not), can take out his cell phone or a camera to record the actions of the police.
“It is worrisome that police actions seek to suppress, which at that time may be the only evidence for the abusive exercise of police powers and their obligation to act within the law,” the judges emphasized.
“The desire to hide, to cover, is more typical of authoritarian regimes than of civilian police in constitutional democracies,” added the judges, who pointed out that this was not the only time that the Fuerza Publica acted in that way.
In the resolution, the magistrates also ordered authorities to refrain from committing this type of action again.
Though anyone and without legal representation can file a writ of habeas corpus with the Constitutional Court, this case, however, it was filed by lawyer Mario Alberto Zamora Cruz in favor of Córdoba and four students who were arrested that day.
Last month, a commission created by the Government and the UCR to investigate the events that occurred that day determined that the police were the first to attack students and not the opposite as initially stated by the Fuerza Publica.