San José, Costa Rica, since 1956


On Saturday, Feb. 26, I saw a case ofwhat I believe is child abuse. This incidenttook place on the Channel 7 televisionshow Sábado Feliz.On that day, I watched a defenselessboy (around 9-10 years old) standing infront of a goal trying to stop penalty shotskicked by two grown-up men. Both menwere competing for prizes given on theshow, and the boy was used only as thegoalie. The boy had no protective gearand looked really scared and uncomfortableabout this situation. I asked myself,what would have happened if those 10strong penalty kicks hit or injured the boyduring the live broadcast of the show?Did the boy’s mother allow her child to beexposed to such danger? Does stupid stufflike that take place every Saturday onCosta Rican television?Each time I enter the country I seeposters in the airport informing touriststhat child abuse is punishable by law. Ihonestly hope that the producers of thatshow received their share of criticism forthat horrible incident. I think the boy wasexposed to a large degree of danger, and itis unquestionable that the safety and well-beingof a child are worth much morethan the prizes given on the show.–Geoffrey Cheung,Santa Rosa, California, USACrissy Vargas, secretary for the productionoffice of Sábado Feliz, told TheTico Times that children 10 and older areallowed to attend the filming of the programwithout their parents. Participationin contests and other activities during theshow is on a volunteer basis, with noaudience member ever being forced toparticipate; any minor may participate indance or singing contests, but the minimumage for participating in potentiallydangerous activities, such as all thoseinvolving sports, is “about 17 years old,more or less.”Nelson Hoffman, the creator and producerof Sábado Feliz, did not returnrepeated phone calls from The TicoTimes.Fanny Cordero, spokeswoman for theChild Welfare Office (PANI), said thereare no specific laws regarding parentalpermission for minors’ participation intelevision shows, or the nature of thatparticipation. The Childhood andAdolescence Code (Law 7739) sectionson minors in the media state “minorshave the right that (the media) respecttheir physical, psychological and moralintegrity” and that the image of minorsaccused of criminal activity cannot beshown. However, no reference is made tominors’ participation in televised contestsor variety shows.

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