Study: Costa Rican Press Creates Climate of Fear

August 26, 2005

THE Costa Rican press, along with that of eight other Latin American countries, scares its readers with its reports on security, according to a new study. Omar Rincón, director of the Latin American Communication Competence Center, released the results of the study in Guatemala earlier this month, concluding the media create “societies of fear.”The way the Latin American media present issues of violence and crime, Rincón said, “creates perceptions of fear in the citizens’ mentality, collective imaginings that create fearful societies.”The study analyzed 14 newspapers in Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador and Mexico. It found 795 stories related to security published from Nov. 20-Dec. 6, 2004. Of those, 46% covered murders, while the others covered theft, security policy, rape and child abuse.The study found that the media present news about crime in a language “of alarm and concern,” which makes people feel threatened and “creates a climate of insecurity,” he said.The press also stigmatizes the have-nots when certain neighborhoods and types of people, such as immigrants, youth, and residents of certain border regions, are singled out as the culprits, he said.To curb the problem, the study proposes that the press create stylebooks that deal with security reporting and train journalists on the subject.

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