Costa Rica

Isolated attacks perpetrated against members of the press by public and private security officers continue to be the most common violation against the practice of press freedom. However, these types of attacks occur infrequently and are quickly denounced in the media when they happen. In the past six months, there has been only one notable physical assault committed against a working journalist by a member of a private security firm. On Dec. 28, 2011, a guard employed by private security firm Protección Vital attacked Diario Extra reporter Ariel Chaves. Chaves was covering a public event commemorating annual holiday festivities. The private security guard was verbally and physically abusive, including grabbing Chaves by the throat and dragging him 15 meters. Following the incident, the company refused to provide Diario Extra with the guard’s name. A Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom bill has been postponed in the Legislative Assembly indefinitely. Since taking office in 2010, President Laura Chinchilla has made no effort to make discussion of the bill a priority, despite helping to draft it during her tenure as a legislator. The bill was presented to the assembly in 2002. The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but punitive defamation laws leave journalists exposed to potential criminal charges for defamation or libel. The Congress shelved a bill that would expand right of reply in newspapers to include the right to reply to opinion, not just news. In terms of access to public information, the outlook for transparency has not been the subject of major changes, and as usual, requesting information from public offices is still a little easier for journalists than for the rest of citizens. The investigative capabilities of news media are improving. In early April, an investigation by the daily La Nación revealed that Finance Minister Fernando Herrero and his wife for years had underreported the value of two of their homes in order to pay fewer taxes than required by law. The revelation came as Chinchilla and members of her Cabinet were lobbying for a fiscal reform plan that called for citizens to pay higher taxes. The investigation resulted in the resignation of Herrero and Tax Administration Director Francisco Villalobos, who had underpaid his taxes by $3,000, according to the investigation.