The country made progress during this period in terms of access to public information, thanks to a series of rulings by the Constitutional Court. Media outlets are still subject to a set of restrictive laws, but, in spite of new lawsuits filed under such laws, these cases do not involve public officials or figures. There is a legal stalemate in this regard between the political authorities and the media. The extreme caution of the news media in their reporting — at times so excessive that it borders on self-censorship — might help explain the lack of lawsuits. Below are the most important developments: - On March 4, in response to a petition filed by the newspaper La Nación, the Constitutional Court ordered the Costa Rican Social Security Fund to turn over the database of its non-taxable pension program. With this information, the newspaper was able to report on irregularities in administering this benefit. - On May 2, a petition filed by Congressman Humberto Arce was heard by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that banking confidentiality does not extend to any account used in transactions of political campaign funds. By virtue of this decision, Costa Rican news outlets obtained financial information that allowed them to uncover serious violations of electoral laws regarding political campaign financing. - On October 1, the Constitutional Court ruled on a petition filed by the newspaper La Nación to force the Housing Mortgage Bank to turn over the database containing information on the people who have received grants for the construction of low-income housing. The Bank had refused to disclose this information, claiming that it was confidential. - The complaint of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against Costa Rica for the criminal penalty handed down to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, a reporter for La Nación, is now being considered by the Inter American Court, which could settle the case in 2004. Costa Rican courts convicted the reporter of four charges of publishing insulting statements against Félix Przedborki, former honorary ambassador of Costa Rica at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Herrera’s articles had reported on number of questions posed to the former ambassador in the European press and provided additional information on the ex-official's actions. Herrera was ordered to pay a fine equivalent to 120 days’ wages as well as 60 million colons (about US$100.000) in civil reparations. La Nación was found to have joint civil liability. The newspaper was also ordered to publish the provisions of the ruling and remove from its online versions the links between the last name Przedborski and the publications that originated the lawsuit. In the place of those links, La Nación must create others between the former official’s last name and the provisions of the court’s finding of liability. The name of the reporter, meanwhile, is to be entered into the Judicial Registry of Offenders. In the complaint, which was notified to the parties on February 17, the Commission has asked the Inter-American Court to nullify the ruling and order changes in the laws applicable to offenses against reputation. The complaint questions the Costa Rican justice system’s finding that the reporter is responsible for proving the truth of the published facts and describes as an “imposition” the order to eliminate the links between the online version of La Nación and the articles on Przedborski and replace them with links to the provisions of the court’s ruling. - The police have kept open the investigation into the homicide of Parmenio Medina Pérez, a reporter who was shot three times and killed on July 7, 2001 near his home in San Miguel de Santo Domingo, Heredia. - Based on claims of irregularities made on Radio María, a religious radio station, the director of the radio program “La Patada” was threatened and his house was targeted with gunfire. - In recent weeks the police raided the home of Father Minor Calvo, the former director of Radio María, and looked through his financial information. The police also summoned the former archbishop of San José, Monsignor Román Arrieta, to make a statement. - Between December and January, prosecutors filed charges against three men. Luis Aguirre Jaime, aka El Indio, was charged with committing the homicide. Andrés Chaves Matarrita is charged with being an accomplice to the murderers, and John Gutiérrez Ramírez is being prosecuted as an intermediary between the killers and the person who ordered the murder. While police say they have clues as to the identity of the person who ordered the murder, no charges have been filed. Another one of the killers was César Murillo, known as Nicho, who died at the hands of police during an attempted bank robbery with Aguirre and Chaves. - The special commission on freedom of expression in the Legislative Assembly has made little progress in the effort to reform current laws in order to broaden the scope of freedom of expression in the country. Recently, criticisms levied against the congressmen have led to the repeal of several regulations that acted as additional restrictions.