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Costa Rica

Area: 50,700 sq. km.
Population: 4,112,000
Languages: Spanish, English, Creole
Type of state: republic
Head of state: President Abel Pacheco

Costa Rica - 2003 Annual Report

Despite repeal of a law penalising insults, the media criticised remaining laws that encouraged self-censorship. The investigation into the 2001 murder of journalist Parmenio Medina made progress.

The article (309) of the criminal code providing for up to two years in prison for anyone damaging the reputation or insulting the rank of a government official was repealed in February 2002. The media welcomed the move but noted that other repressive laws were still on the books, including one allowing people who feel their reputation was impugned by an item of news to sue and get the author fined.
A parliamentary commission was set up to look into these matters. The press is still calling for repeal of the criminal code’s article 149, which says the burden is on journalists to prove their innocence, and article 152, which punishes anyone who repeats offensive remarks.
A poll of journalists published in the daily paper La Nación on 3 May showed 37per cent of them had been threatened with prosecution.
The authorities made great efforts to clear up the 2001 murder of radio journalist Parmenio Medina. The country’s new president, Abel Pacheco, said he would call in the American FBI if necessary. A suspected link-man between the mastermind and those who carried out the murder was arrested on 23 December. The local media said some of the killers were already in jail for subsequent crimes.

New information on a journalist killed before 2002
A Colombian refugee living in Costa Rica, John Gutiérrez Ramírez, was arrested in San José on 23 December 2002 on suspicion of taking part in the 7 July 2001 murder of radio journalist Parmenio Medina by being a link between the mastermind and the actual killers. The press reported that several meetings took place to prepare the murder, which was thought to have been done because Medina had damaging information about a businessman.
The TV stations Canal 6 and Canal 7 said on 25 June, quoting legal sources, that the killing was by four petty criminals, not professionals. Two of them were believed to have been arrested and jailed since for other crimes, a third killed in a bank robbery and a fourth was still on the run. The mastermind reportedly paid the killers 10million colones (27,000 euros).
Medina, in his satirical radio programme "La Patada" ("The Kick") on Radio Monumental, regularly denounced corruption using a team of mimics. In the months before his death, he several times mentioned irregularities in the running of the Catholic station Radio Maria de Guadalupe, questioning the source of its funding and the precise role of businessman Omar Chávez in the station. He also reported seeing Minor Calvo, the priest who founded the station, with a young man in a park frequented by homosexuals. Chávez was arrested on 29 October for defrauding the local Banco Cuscatlan.

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see also
2003 Africa Annual Report
2003 Asia Annual Report
2003 Europe Annual Report
2003 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report