The country received generally good review of press freedom in the annual report prepared by Freedom House. The review is in contrast to worldwide conditions for the media which deteriorated sharply in 2014 to reach their lowest point in more than 10 years, as journalists around the world encountered more restrictions from governments, militants, criminals, and media owners, the organization said.
“Costa Rica continues to enjoy a free press backed by strong legal and political institutions,” Freedom House said. “The constitution guarantees press freedom, and this right is generally upheld. However, punitive press laws, particularly concerning defamation, are occasionally used to restrict the operations of the media.”
The report noted that Diario Extra, the Spanish-language tabloid, accused the Judicial Investigation Agency and the office of the public prosecutor of monitoring journalists’ public and private telephone calls for most of 2013. The supposed targets of the monitoring were potential whistle-blowers, it said.
The report noted that the internet served as an additional source of unrestricted information and was accessed by 46 percent of the population in 2013. But, it said, access to high-speed internet service remains surprisingly low compared with other countries in the region, but the situation is improving.
Worldwide “journalists faced intensified pressure from all sides in 2014,” said Jennifer Dunham, project manager of the report. “Governments used security or antiterrorism laws as a pretext to silence critical voices, militant groups and criminal gangs used increasingly brazen tactics to intimidate journalists and media owners attempted to manipulate news content to serve their political or business interests.”
The report found that the main factors driving the decline were the passage and use of restrictive laws against the media, often on national security grounds, and limits on the ability of local and foreign journalists to report freely within a given country, or even to reach it. In a time of seemingly unlimited access to information and new methods of content delivery, more and more areas of the world are becoming virtually inaccessible to journalists, the report said.
“One of the most troubling developments of the past year was the struggle by democratic states to cope with an onslaught of propaganda from authoritarian regimes and militant groups,” Ms. Dunham said in a press statement. “There is a danger that instead of encouraging honest, objective journalism and freedom of information as the proper antidote, democracies will resort to censorship or propaganda of their own.”
According to the report, of the 199 countries and territories assessed during 2014, a total of 63 (32 percent) were rated free, 71 (36 percent) were rated partly free, and 65 (32 percent) were rated not free.
In Latin America, only three (15 percent) countries, including Costa Rica, were rated free, and just 2 percent of the population lived in free media environments, said the report.
Honduras, Peru, and Venezuela experienced significant declines, while Mexico, already suffering from endemic violence, received its lowest score in over a decade, after the passage of a controversial new telecommunications law, it said.
In Ecuador, hostile rhetoric from the government, combined with pervasive legal harassment of journalists and media outlets, led to a two-point decline, said the report.