Justice official tells CPJ that government opposes press restrictions

New York, July 20, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is encouraged by a letter from Costa Rica’s top justice official stressing her government’s opposition to newly proposed press restrictions.

On June 8, CPJ sent a letter to Costa Rican President Oscar Arias expressing concern about a May 3 decision by the Costa Rican Constitutional Court to uphold defamation laws that set criminal penalties, including prison sentences of up to four months. CPJ was also alarmed by a bill recently introduced in Congress that seeks to regulate journalism by establishing strict controls and regulatory bodies.

In a July 14 letter to CPJ, Costa Rican Minister of Justice Laura Chinchilla said that the government “will not help or support any legislative proposal that hinders press freedom in any way” and stressed that the bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly by Congressmen Alberto Salom and Federico Tinoco “is not endorsed by the government.”

Chinchilla also said she would “try to promote or revive any legislative projects needed in order to ensure freedom to inform.”

“We welcome the Costa Rican government’s response to our concerns about recent threats to press freedom,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We encourage authorities to turn words into action by including a new press freedom law that would eliminate all criminal penalties for press crimes in its legislative agenda.”

Chinchilla’s letter in Spanish

CPJ’s June 8 letter