May 2023 | Constitutional Chamber rules against President Chaves and Health minister for verbal attacks on journalists
The Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber has ruled against President Rodrigo Chaves and his cabinet’s former Health Minister for comments made against journalists. The appeal for constitutional protection (amparo) was presented by journalist Jason Ureña, who alleged that the President’s and former Health Minister’s comments, including their descriptions of reporters as “political hitmen”, contributed to harassment against journalists. The harsh criticism from government officials were responses to news reports that indicated the former Health Minister had hired a communication network to harass critical news organizations.
The government officials were ordered by the Chamber to pay damages and costs for the stigmatizing language used against journalists.
April 2023 | President Chaves presents new security plan
On 19 April, President Rodrigo Chaves presented a new security plan that aims to curtail the rise in violent crime in Costa Rica. Government sources have stated that 2022 was the year that recorded the most murders in the country, and data from the first trimester of 2023 indicate a 40 per cent increase in homicides compared to last year. The plan includes measures to increase police presence in the streets, as well as reforms to impose stricter sanctions on illegal gun ownership, facilitate the extradition of violent criminals (even to those countries with which no extradition treaties exist), charge those under the age of 18 as adults in cases of for- hire killings, and restrict penitentiary benefits for those found criminally responsible for violent crime.
October 2022 | Constitutional Chamber determines press freedom violation from high-level officials
In a context of increasing confrontation between President Rodrigo Chaves and members of the press, the country’s Constitutional Chamber granted an appeal promoted by journalists from newspaper La Nación, against the closure of “Parque Viva”, an entertainment centre owned by the same group. Appellants had argued that the measure was taken after President Chaves had publicly vowed to take measures against the newspaper and other media outlets. The Chamber determined an indirect violation against freedom of press had been committed by the president and health secretary, and ordered the annulment of the measure.
Days after the ruling, Chaves criticized the Court, claiming that it had favoured private interests to the detriment of the health and safety concerns his administration used to justify the closure. President Chaves has made public remarks undermining press freedom, particularly against outlets that have been critical and have reported on previous accusations of sexual harassment.