22 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 51,100 sq km
Head of State: Oscar Arias Sánchez, since May 2006
Costa Rica is proud of being the Latin American country with the best record on respect for human rights and free expression. Nonetheless, it needs to amend its legislation.
No attack on a news media or journalist has been reported in Costa Rica since the start of 2008. A remarkable exception in Central America, a region known for violent crime, Costa Rica prides itself on being a country that protects human rights, and rightly so. President Oscar Arias was one of the architects of the peace accords that ended the civil wars in neighbouring countries during his first mandate (1986-1990). The Costa Rican capital San José, is the seat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the hemisphere’s highest court.
However, it continues to have an archaic press and free expression law dating back to 1902 that was only slightly improved by the subsequent suppression of the crime of “dishonour”. The debate about the law’s modernisation continues to drag on. Its controversial article 7 makes defamation and insult punishable by imprisonment - for up to 120 days in the case of defamation. The most recent convictions on these charges were in 2004 and they were condemned by the San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights. There have been no convictions in press cases since then.