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Judge Closes Risqué Magazine

May 28, 2004

A decade of cleavage and sultry glances may havecome to a close this week after Judge Christiana Vargas,accompanied by police officers, on Wednesday closed theoffices of Chavespectáculos, a risqué entertainment magazinein San José.Publisher Jorge Chaves, in his office decorated withpictures of busty women and a line drawing of himself inhis youth, greeted police officers and press photographerswith polite smiles as Vargas officially sealed doorsthroughout the building with rubber-stamped tape.With this latest move by the court, Chaves has becomethe fulcrum of a censorship debate, the loss of which, ifyou ask him, could shackle the nation’s free press.His monthly publication, Chavespectáculos, marcheswomen as provocative as those on his walls onto the newsstands.It also features gossip about famous personalitiesand interviews with musicians, actors and models.A court order last week called for the closure of hisoffice, citing an outstanding fine of more than ¢1 million($2,315), imposed by a judge in 2003 after Chaves refusedto submit the magazine to the Justice Ministry’s Office ofControl and Rating of Public Spectacles for a screeningbefore it went to press each month.The publication contains no full nudity or any sexualcontact. It could be compared to photos of a sunny day at the beach – a beach where attractivewomen pucker their lips at onlookers.Chavespectáculos is not sold in plasticwith opaque inserts like nudie magazines,but nevertheless the Ministry’s ratingoffice ordered that it be reviewedeach month before publication aftersomeone filed a complaint against himand the magazine in 1998, saying theimages were erotic and pornographic.When Chaves refused to submit to priorreview, the issue went to court.ALTHOUGH he filed an appealedbefore the Constitutional Chamber of theSupreme Court (Sala IV) on March 5 ofthis year, it was rejected two months laterwhen the court decided it was not constitutionalmaterial.The Penal Court of the First JudicialCircuit of San José proceeded to order theclosure of his offices, which are also thehome of Sexxxo Caliente, an indisputableporn magazine.In the wake of the court order he hadvowed to not lay off any of his eight fulltimestaff members, nor shut down hisoperation. When he found out about theclosure order on May 19, three of hisemployees milled about on the sidewalkbeside a Teletica television van swappingsomber looks and voicing doubt about thefuture of their enterprise.Chaves was still working in his officeon Tuesday, the day before the closure,when The Tico Times interviewed him.He had just pulled his latest edition offthe press. The cover features the backsideof a woman in a black thong and thigh highboots – a photo that did not pass underthe critical eye of the censorship office.“IT’S a question of principles,” hesaid. “It doesn’t matter if the censorshipoffice says it will be flexible – prior censorshipdoes not exist in this country.”Chaves’ opinion is propped up bynewspaper owners, journalists and mediabig-wigs, so much so that without theirsupport, he said, he would have long sinceconsidered himself wrong.Weighty names from media such as thetelevision news program Telenoticias, thedaily La Nación and the nation’s most populardaily Diario Extra are printed besidetheir votes of confidence for the Chavesfight.Raúl Silesky, president of the CostaRican Journalists’ Association, has beenoutspoken in Chaves’ defense.“CENSORSHIP should have no placein a democracy,” Silesky said. “A censor isa danger – who grants him the power to saywhat to publish and what not to publish,what you or I can know about and whatnot, whether the criteria is moral, religious,political or something else?”Silesky and Chaves have turned to theInter-American Commission of HumanRights to take up the case against thestate. Both presented their writtenrequests to the Commission, based inWashington D.C., in hopes it will representthem against the state of Costa Ricain the San José-based Inter-AmericanCourt of Human Rights.Chaves thinks the problem lies in thespectacle-rating office’s definition ofpornography. He claims the law that thecourt regards as justification for theoffice’s request for prior review, the Lawof Public Spectacles, governs public spectaclesand printed materials and is restrictedto pornography.NEITHER Chaves nor Silesky considerChavespectáculos pornography.“Call it vulgar, say that it stirs upinstincts, call it what you will, but whenthey call it pornography I pull out a copy ofthis,” he said, holding up the latest editionof porn magazine Sexxxo Caliente. “ThenI send it to their offices.”“I prefer death, I prefer going to jailrather than send even one photo to them(the ratings office). I’m not afraid. I respectthe state, but prior censorship is illegal.”Questioned about the case as shestuck official tape to Chaves’ closedoffice doors on Wednesday, Judge Vargassaid she was just doing her job, andoffered no further comment.

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