Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

Freedom of the Press 2008 - Costa Rica

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 29 April 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Costa Rica, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f5fa28.html [accessed 21 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Free
Legal Environment: 6 (of 30)
Political Environment: 7 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 6 (of 30)
Total Score: 19 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Costa Rica's press environment is considered to be among the freest in Latin America. Freedom of communication is guaranteed under Article 24 of the constitution, which also reserves the government's right to seize private documents. However, strict libel laws provide for penalties of up to three years' imprisonment in cases of insult of a public official, though these have been under review since 2004. Article 7 of the 1902 statute known as the Ley de Imprenta imposes a prison sentence of up to 120 days for defamation in print media. A reform proposal regarding press freedom is still pending. The amended law would establish the "actual malice" standard, though it would maintain "crimes against honor" as a criminal matter and would provide the means for journalists charged with such offenses to defend themselves legally. Access to official information remains a challenge for journalists.

There were no major developments threatening press freedom in Costa Rica in 2007, and some pending legal cases were resolved in courts. In April, the Constitutional Chamber issued a ruling which refined the legal definition of both the right to privacy and the right to be informed. At the center of the case was an interview conducted on hidden camera by the television program "Noticias Repretel" which reported on the issues of illegal entry of foreigners and the lax policy of issuing of entry visas. The court's ruling defended civil society by concluding that the right to be informed took precedence over privacy considerations in this case. In June, a judge awarded restitution to the newspaper La Nación for US$120,000, the amount of damages which the publication was forced to pay former diplomat Félix Pzerdborsky for defamation.

In a positive development against impunity, two men were sentenced in December to 35 years imprisonment for the murder of Parmenio Medina, a popular radio journalist who was killed in July 2001. A court convicted businessman Omar Chaves of sanctioning Medina's murder and Luis Alberto Aguirre Jaime of carrying out the assassination. A third accused plotter, Father Mínor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar, was acquitted in the criminal case but convicted of fraud and sentenced to 15 years, in addition to a second fraud charge carrying 12 year's imprisonment. Six other suspects accused in the Medina murder conspiracy were acquitted.

Costa Rica has a vibrant media scene, although private media ownership is highly concentrated and generally conservative. Radio is the most popular outlet for news dissemination, though several daily newspapers are widely circulated. Access to the internet is unrestricted, and nearly 30 percent of the population made use of this medium in 2006.

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