Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and the country is usually regarded as enjoying a vigorous press. Independent media exist and actively criticize the government. However, libel and slander are criminal offenses and can be punished by up to three years in prison. There is general recognition that journalists practice self-censorship due to the severe defamation laws and the military's influential position in politics and business. In several cases journalists received various threats, including interrogation by government officials. Former coup leader Lucio Gutierrez took office in January after winning elections in November 2002, and while he promised to fight corruption and social injustice, journalists criticized his administration's aggressive attitude toward the press and the unwillingness of some public agencies and the armed forces to release public information. The daily newspaper El Comercio has been pressured by the president to reveal its sources on a story that alleges a connection between $30,000 in drug trafficking money and a donation to the president's campaign in the last election; the newspaper has refused to release any sources on grounds of press freedom. Positively, a Freedom of Information Act passed one round of votes in Congress in September, and appeals related to a libel suit filed against newspaper columnist Rodrigo Fierro have further brought the issue of criminal defamation before the country's Supreme Court of Justice.