The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) Tuesday expressed its concern over the future of free speech in Costa Rica following the attacks of the Government of President Rodrigo Chaves against La Nación, which included administrative actions against the newspaper one of the companies owning it.
The organization urged Chaves to suspend what appears to be an act of indirect intimidation as well as a campaign to discredit the newspaper.
The administrative actions against one of the companies that provide economic stability to the newspaper were taken two days after the president criticized the newspaper, said IAPA President Jorge Canahuati, who highlighted that Chaves had used distorted data on bonds issued by La Nación S.A. in the stock market between 2013 and 2014 and questioned the company's financial stability.
Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) Alvaro Ramos admitted returns had always been paid on time. CCSS was one of the investors allegedly risking severe losses, according to the president's statements.
Last week and following an anonymous complaint, the Health Ministry suspended the operating permit of Parque Viva, owned by Grupo Nación.
Our experience indicates that, many times, freedom of the press is attacked in an indirect way to 'discipline' media, either through fiscal audits or discriminating against them with official advertising, among other forms of indirect censorship, said Canahuati.
The international organization also recalled that during the electoral campaign, Chaves had promised to destroy La Nación and Canal 7, among other media, because they published information on sexual harassment allegations against him when he worked at the World Bank more than 15 years ago, and on alleged irregularities in the financing of his political activity.
IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information Chairman Carlos Jornet said that the president's continuous references to the newspaper demonstrate an intention to discredit it in the eyes of public opinion. Jornet, editor of La Voz del Interior in the Argentine city of Córdoba, added that unfortunately, this is an increasingly common practice among the region's rulers, regardless of their ideological leanings.
Canahuati and Jornet urged Chaves to abandon the confrontational attitude against La Nación and to respect the fundamental role of the press in a democracy. They also recalled that Costa Rica used to be one of the countries where the Declaration of Chapultepec was most respected.
The document establishes that no media or journalist should be sanctioned for disseminating the truth or formulating criticisms or denunciations against the public authorities”.
The IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere and is headquartered in Miami, United States.