The College of Journalists of Costa Rica and the Institute of Press and Freedom of Expression (Iplex) described the suggestion made by Judge Iris Rocío Rojas Morales as unacceptable, that journalists’ telephones should be intervened for the judiciary to know their sources.

Supreme Court Iris Rocío Rojas said in Monday’s Full Court session, “The secret of the journalist’s source is not unlimited.” Photo: Rafael Pacheco / La Nacion

Raúl Silesky, president of Iplex, said: “we are concerned that a magistrate suggests actions against that fundamental right. It is unacceptable as it goes against the Constitutional Court (also known as Sala IV) vote of April 30, 2008, and of the international standards of freedom of the press. That would mean a serious setback for our democracy.”

Silesky also noted that the organization expresses its total opposition to Rojas’s proposal, while calling on the Judiciary to promote internal training processes for its magistrates, “in order to promote the strengthening of our fundamental freedoms” and not the opposite.

Meanwhile, Belisario Solano, president of the College of Journalists of Costa Rica, openly censored Judge Rojas’ proposal to intervene in the telephones of journalists.

“It is not possible for the Costa Rican press to suffer such an attack, much less coming from the Judiciary. I invite Judge Rojas to put aside that proposal and to ask the Court to investigate whether or not there is information leakage”.

In Solano’s opinion, the judge’s proposal could be taken “as a way of attacking freedom of the press, against the secrecy of the sources and against the right to information that Costa Rican society has. We censor such a proposal and ask the magistrates to stop any progress in that direction.”

Iris Rocío Rojas, a member of the Supreme Court, proposed in Full Court session the “possibility of” a reform so that journalists’ telephones and communications can be intervened in order to find out their sources within the Judiciary, in case of possible leaks”.

“The secrecy of the journalist’s source is not unlimited,” Rojas said in reference to the eventual leak of information from police operations that may fail to leak into the press.

On Tuesday, Iris Rocío Rojas clarified her comments on Monday, saying “…I am convinced it is necessary to investigate the internal leakage of information (in the Judiciary).” She also pointed out that her comments “do not represent the will of the Court”.

Tuesday afternoon, at the press conference at Casa Presidencial (Government House), the Minister of the Presidency, Víctor Morales Mora, also spoke against the magistrate’s suggestion.

“Of course we do not agree with an intervention on the phones of journalists. It seems to me that our commitment to press freedom should lead us to express ourselves against such initiatives,” he said.

In April 2008 and in March 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled on the issue of the intervention of journalist’s telephones in response to two recursos de amparo (appeals).

The first involved an individual who requested La Nación gave him a copy of the documents that supported the publication of an investigative report in 2007. The appeal was filed after the journalist refused to hand over the documents, citing it violated the right of journalists not to disclose their sources.

In March 2014, the magistrates received an appeal filed by journalist Manuel Estrada of the Diario Extra, who reported that the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) and the  Ministerio Público (Prosecutor’s Office) had, without the authorization of a criminal judge, intervened his phone in order to know his source.

The magistrates considered that the evidence obtained by the judicial authorities was void.