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Legislative Assembly reverses order restricting access to information

March 12, 2015

The Legislative Assembly’s directorate this week reversed a controverial gag order prohibiting officials from giving information or statements to the press without approval by the Assembly’s executive director.

In a public statement released Wednesday directorate members said that “the decision comes as a result of a deep analysis in recent weeks in which we have taken into consideration relations with the media and also the citizens’ rights to access public information objectively.”

Assembly President Henry Mora Jiménez, from the ruling Citizen Action Party, and secretaries Jorge Rodríguez Araya and Luis Vásquez Castro, from the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), signed the order restricting access to information on Dec. 10, 2014. However it wasn’t disclosed to Assembly members until an internal memo went out in early February.

The gag order received severe criticism from citizens, members of the media and other lawmakers.

Among the critics was Rolando González Ulloa, legislative leader of the National Liberation Party, who last month filed a complaint with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. González asked the court to reverse the order, arguing that it constituted “a threat to freedom of expression, access to information and the press in our country.”

At the time, PUSC’s Vázquez denied that the order limited access to information.

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

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