President’s minister denies anti-press strategy exists

The president’s public relations chief denies that there is a strategy in the administration to obstruct or intimidate journalists.

The official is Roberto Gallardo Núñez, who is the minister de Comunicación y Enlace Institucional. The journalists’ professional organization, the Colegio de Periodistas, raised the issue after several cases in which reporters or camera operators were jostled by presidential staffers.

In a related issue, the newspaper La Nación complained that President Laura Chinchilla has declined to answer questions about her sinking popularity as reflected in national polls.

Gallardo said that the government deplores the fact that there have been incidents between news people and presidential functionaries and necessary measures will be taken to prevent similar events in the future.

He also denied that there ever existed a directive to obstruct or intimidate news people in their daily labors. Although unfortunate, the incidents that had been reported are not part of a greater strategy and were products of individual situations, he said. Gallardo made his comments in a letter dated Thursday to Raúl Silesky Jiménez, president of the colegio.

Silesky had raised the issue in an earlier letter to the presidencia.

The president has seen her popularity wane due to lack of action to create a better security climate as she had promised in the election campaign and also because she is proposing some massive tax increases. She also has lost some favor with the public because she did not respond strongly to an invasion of Costa Rican land by Nicaragua.

However, popularity is not critical in Costa Rica where presidents cannot run for reelection at the end of their first term. Having strong public support can help a president enact planned legislation.

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