Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 10:16 GMT

World Report - Costa Rica

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date May 2014
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, World Report - Costa Rica, May 2014, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
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.

The country is very proud of its reputation as having the best human rights and freedom of expression in Latin America. Its relevant laws need amending but progress is being made.

Costa Rica is a beacon of human rights amid the lawlessness often found in Central America. President Oscar Arias (2006-2010) sponsored peace agreements to end civil wars in the region during his first term (1986-1990) and the continent's highest jurisdiction, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, is based in San José, the capital.

The government has moved towards decriminalising media offences. After a debate about updating the press and freedom of expression law, the supreme court on 11 February 2010 struck down the controversial article 7 of the 1902 press law which allowed journalists, editors and media owners to be jailed for up to 120 days for defamation and "insults."

On 18 December 2009, a court freed Luis Jiménez Robleto, of the daily Diario Extra, who was facing a 50-day sentence on these grounds.

Costa Rican legislation is also quite advanced regarding freedom of information. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice temporarily suspended article 288 of the Computer Crimes Law. This controversial article provided for sanctions of two to six years imprisonment for broadcasting "secret political information". Congress had the article fully cancelled in April 2013.

Although a large majority of the congressmen approved the reform (42 votes for to 2 votes against), Reporters Without Borders is concerned about a remaining article, which punishes any revelation of "State secrets regarding national security, sovereignty and external relations" with one to six years in jail.

In early 2014, the Judiciary Investigation Organisation (OIJ) was involved in a surveillance scandal which casted a shadow on Costa Rica's otherwise enviable freedom of the press situation. On 20 January 2014, the daily newspaper Diario Extra declared that the OIJ had been monitoring journalists' private and professional phone calls for the past ten months.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that the case was unconstitutional on 25 March 2014, considering it a violation of the confidentiality of the news media's sources.

Updated May 2014

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