Status: Free
Legal Environment: 5
Political Influences: 7
Economic Pressures: 7
Total Score: 19

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 79
Religious Groups: Roman Catholic (76.3 percent), Evangelical (13.7 percent), other (10 percent)
Ethnic Groups: White and Mestizo (94 percent), black (3 percent), Amerindian (1 percent), other (2 percent)
Capital: San Jose

The oldest democracy in Latin America, Costa Rica also has a press freedom law that is the oldest in Central America, dating from 1835. A July 2004 decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding a defamation case may cause the country to review and revise its restrictive criminal libel statutes. The government agreed to respect the Inter-American Court decision, which struck down the 1999 defamation conviction of Mauricio Herrera Ulloa of La Nacion. A Costa Rican court had ruled that articles by Herrera defamed a Costa Rican diplomat. The ruling also called for a revision of Costa Rica's criminal libel laws, and this could have an effect on libel cases throughout the Americas. During the year, three journalists were sentenced to criminal charges for journalistic infractions.

In 2004, authorities also continued unraveling the 2001 murder case of radio journalist Parmenio Medina. Nine defendants, including a Catholic priest, await trial for the Medina murder. Prosecutors were transcribing hundreds of hours of tapes to present their charges, which involve an intricate conspiracy. Numerous privately owned print and broadcast media provide diverse views and continue to criticize the government freely. The major media owners are a group of moderate conservatives, while Mexican media mogul Angel Gonzalez hides his television network properties in the country through a series of holding companies.

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