Target: President Laura Chinchilla
Goal: Repeal the new controversial law in Costa Rica that would harm freedom of press and freedom of expression.
Costa Rica is considered a leader in Latin America for its protection of human rights and freedom of speech, but a controversial new law restricts the country’s freedom of press. The law, which will make it illegal to publish sensitive government information, has been met with criticism and protests. Demand immediate repeal of the law and protect freedom of speech and journalism rights in Costa Rica.
The new media law, Law 9048 or Information Crimes Law, was proposed to the public as a drive against cybercrime. In reality, the law restricts free flow of information and violates freedom of speech. Under the new law any journalist, newspaper or blogger can be prosecuted for publishing classified information. Article 288 of the law gives jail time of up to 10 years for anyone who publishes confidential political information. The law also restricts internet freedom by changing the definition of espionage to include digital information. People who impersonate others online, which could include avatars and aliases, could face up to 6 years in prison. The new law makes it illegal to spread false news over the internet, similar to a Guatemalan law which put a Twitter user in jail for spreading rumors. The Information of Crimes Law restricts freedom of speech in a country that once prided itself on protection of rights.
Protesters have even dubbed the new law the “Gag Law,” saying that it protects corruption. The law restricts freedom of press during a time of several corruption scandals. The press has formerly exposed corruption cases, including three involving former presidents. The public has a right to know about corruption happening in their country.
The Costa Rican Union of Journalists calls the law an attack on freedom of expression. One major problem with the law is its vague definition of “secret political information.” One blogger has called it the “Anti-Wikileaks” law, as it prevents citizens from releasing information to websites like Wikileaks. Costa Rican newspaper La Nación published confidential information it obtained on Wikileaks only a couple of years ago. Critics of the law agree that it will harm investigative journalism and restrict freedom of expression.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Costa Rica to oppose the law. Different groups are demanding a dialogue with the government. The citizens’ ombudsman’s office is challenging the law in court as unconstitutional. President Laura Chinchilla’s office is already saying that it will reform the law, but reform is not enough. She said that the law will not be used against journalists; however, journalists are not at ease because the law will still be in place for other leaders to use. President Chinchilla said that her administration does not support the law, yet she signed it. Reporters Without Borders said that Chinchilla should have vetoed the law altogether.
Demand that the government keep their word and amend the law. Demand that this attack on freedom of speech be repealed.
Dear President Laura Chinchilla,
The government of Costa Rica recently passed a law which restricts the rights of journalists and harms freedom of speech. This new law allows corruption and impunity to continue without consequence as the press will be restricted from publishing it.
The law is vague in what precisely it restricts. “Secret political information” can be widely interpreted and is an unclear term. The citizens of Costa Rica cannot be afraid of speaking about what is happening in their country or investigating the truth.
Your administration has promised that you will reform the law and that the law will not be used against journalists. The citizens need more assurance than that. I am demand that your government open up dialogue with the citizens on how to proceed. I also urge you to consider full repeal of the law.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit via InsideCostaRica.com