Executives at El Diario Extra, the popular Spanish-language daily newspaper in San José, said Monday that the Poder Judicial has illegally tapped into reporters’ phone calls. Surrounded by the familiar cameras and microphones of fellow local journalists, Diario Extra’s management said that basic journalist rights had been violated since as far back as last March.
“It’s a shameless act of espionage,” said deputy director Paola Hernández. The intention of Poder Judicial is to know and to discover each source of information from Diario Extra and possibly other media outlets, she added.
The Poder Judicial denied any wrongdoing in a later news release, stating it is aware that “the function of the media is essential in respect to the public liberties of each citizen.” Consisting of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, prosecutors and the Judicial Investigating Organization, the Poder Judicial is the government branch that is in charge of law enforcement.
News reporter Manuel Estrada, who Diario Extra executives say had his personal and corporate phones hacked, assured his subjects and sources that he would maintain their basic right of anonymity, saying, “I want to let my sources know that will not reveal the names of any of my informants.” The media group’s lawyer, Carlos Serrano, said he plans to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to preserve the rights of journalistic expression and source protection in Costa Rica and the rest of the Americas.
The commission says “each social communicator has the right to reserve his or her sources of information, notes, as well as personal and professional archives.”
“All of the national and international press must understand that no power of the Republic can frighten us,” Ms. Hernández said.
Grupo Extra executives were joined by representatives from other media outlets and the Colegio de Periodistas, the journalism professional organization.
The full Corte Suprema de Justicia said Monday it was seeking information from investigators about the case.
The judicial said that the situation involved an investigation of a judicial employee who may be leaking information.
By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff