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)
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.
On May 3, the Constitutional Court upheld press legislation declaring libel and slander to be crimes. Article 7 of the 1902 statute known as Ley de Imprenta imposes a prison sentence of up to 120 days for defamation in print media. A petition to strike down the law was filed in February 2004 by the lawyer of the San Jose–based daily Extra, after three of its journalists were convicted under Article 7 and given suspended prison sentences. The Court rejected the appeal. Also in May, a bill was introduced in Congress seeking to regulate journalism. The same bill would limit press freedom by introducing the notion of “truthful information.” But the government has shown support for a bill in Congress that would ban all these restrictive press laws. Access to official information remains a challenge for journalists.
While violence against journalists is not common in Costa Rica, in February Jose Alberto Gatgens, a correspondent with La Nacion, was fired upon by security guards as he left a shopping mall in the town of Guapiles. Gatgens, who was not hurt in the attack, was preparing a report on alleged irregularities in the licensing of casinos. In November, human rights groups and press freedom advocates expressed concern over the impunity surrounding the murders of journalists Parmenio Medina and Ivannia Mora, both killed in 2003. Also in November, judges in the Mora case dropped the charges against all of the six alleged suspects, saying “essential” evidence for the case was inadmissible in court.
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 more than 20 percent of the population made use of this medium in 2006.