Costa Rica

A constitutional reform might introduce a legally-enforced right of reply, not just as it relates to information, but also to opinions. Currently, readers are permitted to reply to rectify information that may be inexact or egregious. The idea of the reform is to expand the right of reply to include opinions, even if the opinions are in advertising. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights says that the right of reply should apply to those who have been injured by inaccurate or offensive statements, in that they can reply to make a correction using the same communications outlet. The proposed reform of Costa Rica’s constitution would limit freedom of the press in that it forces the various media to publish all submissions. In one of his last acts as Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias established May 30 as National Journalist Day. The day falls on the anniversary of La Penca, long considered a dark day of journalism in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and all of Central America. On that day in 1984, three journalists were killed and a dozen others injured when a bomb exploded at a press conference on the border. Though thousands of dollars and long hours have been dedicated to reveal the perpetrator, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility. The case is now being reviewed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Several survivors were in the audience when Oscar Arias signed the executive decree naming May 30 as National Journalist Day. Alhough the two-time president often battled with the press, he said journalists play a fundamental role in democracy. He told the audience, “The first thing one wonders is why we had to wait 26 years to declare this day.” Costa Rica's first female president, Laura Chinchilla, replaced President Oscar Arias in May. The former legislator and public security minister has a reputation of being press-friendly. When she served in Congress (1998-2002), she worked on a bill to change defamation from being a criminal offense to a civil one. The bill is still before a commission in the Legislative Assembly. Her press conferences have been characterized as informal and open, and she tends to engage in dialogue with the journalists instead of reading off rehearsed lines. She has taken advantage of Twitter (with 10,710 followers), and online videos to engage directly with the general public.