Presidencia calls hurry-up meeting on new info law

Casa Presidencial has called a meeting this afternoon of politicians and journalists in the wake of criticism that a new law represents censorship.

President Laura Chinchilla put her name to the measure last week, but some newspeople actually read the law and came upon a penalty for revealing secret political information. That penalty appears to have been added in a legislative committee and without the knowledge of many lawmakers.

The thrust of the law is to specify Internet crimes, which have not been stipulated clearly in the current penal code. The penalty for what the law calls espionage is four years in jail. And espionage is defined as obtaining political secrets.

Lawyers who have looked at the law conclude that the phrase secret political information is imprecise and contrary to the Costa Rican Constitution that protects state secrets.

The disputed section of the law appears to have come from the nation’s legal agency. So being invited to the meeting tomorrow is Francisco Salas, procurador of the Procuraduría de Derecho Informático e Informática Jurídica.
The minister of the Presidencia, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, also has invited members of the Colegio de Periodistas and lawmakers from the Comisión de Seguridad y Narcotráfico, which studied the bill in the legislature.

Also invited, according to Casa Presidencial, are Fernando Ferraro, minister of Justicia y Paz, and Fancisco Chacón, minister of Comunicación,.

The Costa Rica law is being discussed internationally in journalism and academic circles.

Some journalists are suspicious because the Chinchilla administration has been getting pounded by release of information regarding tax problems of her ministers and construction projects, such as the Ruta 1856 that appears to have been a black hole for government money.

Other journalists are less suspicious and see the section of the law as just another example of the unintended consequences of the legislative system.

They point out that lawmakers have been trying to revise the new traffic code for two years because the prior legislature imposed draconian penalties that the Sala IV constitutional court has been voiding as disproportionate.

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