10 May 2006


Supreme Court upholds prison terms for defamation and insult

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(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about a Costa Rican Supreme Court decision on 3 May 2006 rejecting a newspaper lawyer's petition for article 7 of the Press Law to be struck down as unconstitutional. The article provides for prison sentences for those who use the media to "defame" or "insult".

"We call on the government to reconsider the Press Law and to begin a debate on the subject with the media and journalists' associations," RSF said. "In view of the controversy over the court's decision to uphold article 7, which seriously limits journalists' freedom of expression, Parliament must now be involved."

First adopted 104 years ago, the article provides for sentences of between one and 120 days in prison for those who author material considered to defame or insult in newspaper columns, and for the editors that publish the material.

The petition against the article was filed on 24 February 2004 by Carlos Serrano, the legal representative of the group that owns the daily newspaper "Extra", after three of this newspaper's journalists were convicted under the article. Among other things, Serrano argued its penalties were much too severe compared with the penalties under the criminal code for an "attack on a person's honour", which are limited to fines.

Among the many critics of the Supreme Court ruling is Raúl Silesky of the Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión (Press and Free Expression Institute), who said that upholding article 7 of the Press Law would "foster self-censorship and undermine Costa Rican democracy."


Reporters Without Borders
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75002 Paris, France
rsf (@) rsf.org

Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
Costa Rica

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