People say that death is never as clear as when it is staring you on the face. In Costa Rica, the citizenry and the media have a tradition for enjoying freedoms and liberties not seen in neighboring countries. However, those liberties and freedoms have been challenged lately by government officials. Suddenly, the death of freedom seems closer than ever before. This time, the government intends to claim the power to shut down news media.
In Costa Rica, the media and the public have been caught off guard after the Ministry of Science and Technology (MICITT), suggested that a new law should be passed that intends to close media outlets that ‘lie’ or that report the news in a way that shows lack of ethics and that assault tradition.
As in the case of other countries, the Minister of Science and Technology, Gisela Kopper Arguedas, wants the decision to close media to be in the hands of politically appointed bureaucrats, who would base the decision to close a newspaper or a television station on their own assessment about what is ethical or true.
According to Telenoticias, a local television news broadcast, introduced a draft bill in which it is proposed that mass media are subject to closing for up to 1 year if a few politically appointed government officials deem the reporting of news as lies or because the news include vulgarity.
Apparently, the proposal for the government to have the power to regulate the media came after the Costa Rican president, Luis Guillermo Solís, publicly complained about the media’s coverage of his government. He said that the media only focused on the negative issues and not on his accomplishments as president.
If the draft bill is successfully approved in Congress, a handful of people from the Technology and Telecommunications Ministry would have the power to decide if medium needs to be closed down and for how long. The proposal to close mass media is completely opposite to Costa Rican law and tradition, which guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
“Who came up with the idea that two lies or two news reports that are contrary to morality justifies closing mass media?,” decried television news journalist Ignacio Santos during an op-ed. “What is behind this project? How is it that defending ethics means closing media? Who intends to threaten the media?, ” added Santos. He went on to say that if the whole purpose of the proposal was to acheive the goal of closing media, that effort has failed.
Santos challenged the proposal by asking whether or not the president of Costa Rica actually supported this draft bill. “Does the President and Members of the PAC – the president’s party- support closing mass media because of two offenses allegedly committed against decency in a year?”
The proposal from the MICITT intends to classify offenses committed by the media into three categories: light, serious and very serious. On article 68, the draft classifies offenses as very serious if a newscast or newspaper “circulates false news”. On paragraph “D” – the draft bill describes the use of language considered as vulgar or contrary to morality.
In Article 69 the document labels as serious offenses things like “the commission within one year, of two or more serious offenses.” The penalties for very serious offenses would be closing radio stations and TV channels. Meanwhile, Article 74 describes details about the granting and revoking of permits for mass media. “In the case of very serious offenses it will proceedure to revoke the license or permit.”
The text proposed by MICITT has not yet been formally presented to Congress members, but it is apparently being handed out to PAC members.
Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder and editor-in-chief at The Real Agenda. His career spans over 18 years and almost every form of news media. His articles include subjects such as environmentalism, Agenda 21, climate change, geopolitics, globalisation, health, vaccines, food safety, corporate control of governments, immigration and banking cartels, among others. Luis has worked as a news reporter, on-air personality for Live and Live-to-tape news programs. He has also worked as a script writer, producer and co-producer on broadcast news. Read more about Luis.