Two shooting incidents reported at La Nación in less than a month

New York, March 28, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today called for a prompt and thorough investigation into two gunfire attacks this month against the facilities of the daily newspaper La Nación in Costa Rica’s capital, San José.

Three unidentified assailants fired several shots at the newspaper building from a moving vehicle about 4 a.m. on March 23, La Nación reported. No one was injured in the attack, which caused slight damage to the building. Based on interviews with security guards and the discovery of five bullet casings, police suspect a 38-caliber handgun was used, according to La Nación.

Two weeks earlier, an unidentified individual fired several shots at the paper’s security post, where guards watch over the newspaper’s parking lot and administrative offices. The attacker apparently got into a waiting car and fled after the shooting, which occurred on the night of March 8, La Nación said. Two guards were forced to take cover, but no injuries were reported.

“Costa Rica is known as a country where press freedom is widely respected but these violent incidents undermine that reputation,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The government must take measures to ensure journalists are able to work freely and without fear of retaliation.”

In 2001, the muckraking producer and host of the weekly radio program “La Patada” (The Kick), was slain by unknown gunmen. The murder of Parmenio Medina Pérez remains unsolved.

Armando González, La Nación‘s managing editor, told CPJ that the paper had not received any threats before the attacks but said he was concerned that someone might be trying to intimidate journalists.

La Nación has broken major stories and taken an editorial position on a hotly contested issue in recent years. In 2004, La Nación played a key role in uncovering corruption scandals that ended with the arrests of former presidents Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and Rafael Ángel Calderón, each of whom were held on bribery charges. The arrest of Rodríguez was particularly embarrassing since he was forced to resign as secretary-general of the Organization of American States.

La Nación has also supported the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which Costa Rica signed in 2004 but has yet to ratify. Throughout Central America, CAFTA has met fierce opposition from some groups, including trade unions and farmers.