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Liberation lawmaker claims recent Assembly policies limit press freedom

National Liberation Party (PLN) lawmaker Rolando González Ulloa on Wednesday morning filed an appeal with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, that challenges a directive by the Legislative Assembly’s directorate prohibiting officials from providing information or statements to the press without approval by the Assembly’s executive director.

Assembly President Henry Mora Jiménez, from the ruling Citizen Action Party (PAC), and secretaries Jorge Rodríguez Araya and Luis Vásquez Castro, from the Social Christian Unity Party, signed the directive on Dec. 10, 2014. It was disclosed to Assembly officials in an internal memo this week.

The memo explains that all information required by members of the media must be approved and channeled through the Assembly’s executive director, Antonio Ayales Esna.

“The measure aims to provide effective, official, clear and concise information. It does not intend to block communication bridges. The goal is to maintain order and unity in the delivery of official documentation,” the document states.

Vázquez denied that the move limits access to information.

“We are enforcing a 2009 agreement that is currently being used in all public offices; we are simply naming an official spokesperson. The move is necessary because some people here have distributed information and documents regarding decisions that haven’t yet been approved,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, González filed the complaint asking Sala IV justices to revoke the directorate’s policy because “it constitutes a threat to freedom of expression, of accessing information and of the press in our country,” he said at a press conference later that day.

González told reporters that the directorate’s latest agreement “is one of 11 consecutive decisions – all related to the government and to PAC and its allies – where threats to press freedom are evident.”

The legislator cited a directive by Casa Presidencial last year to filter all public agencies’ communications to the media. He also mentioned criticisms, negative remarks and calls to boycott media outlets made by Presidency Minister Melvin Jiménez, PAC President Kattia Martin and former Broad Front Party presidential candidate José María Villalta.

In addition, González said he filed a separate appeal with the Sala IV against minister Jiménez for refusing to comply with a request to deliver a report on the log of Casa Presidencial’s incoming and outgoing visitors from December to January.

“The Constitutional Chamber will tell us if that information is confidential or not,” the Liberation legislator said.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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