San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Reporters Win Some, Lose Some

A 2004 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights saved journalist Mauricio Herrera, a reporter for the daily La Nación, from a prison sentence for libel and defamation charges. Now, another San José newspaper, Diario Extra, is hoping the international court will rule in its favor as well.

The sensationalist daily presented its case before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in October 2005, according to Diario Extra’s legal advisor Carlos Serrano, for consideration to be reviewed by the rights court.

Diario Extra journalist Gabriela Chávez was sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined $65,000 for publishing an altered photo of several television models as part of a report on the circulation of altered photos of the models on the streets and the Internet (TT, April 2, 2004). Despite a clarification published in the paper, she was found guilty.

Although the journalist was later absolved by the Penal Branch of the Supreme Court (Sala III), the daily was forced to pay a ¢30 million (almost $60,000) fine for publishing the altered photo. This prompted the appeal to the Inter-American Commission, where the case remains under review, Serrano said.

Two other reporters from Diario Extra were sentenced to prison and charged fines for libel and defamation of character in 2004. Marco Leandro Camacho was sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $16,500 for “tarnishing the image” of a high school principal in El Roble, in the Pacific province of Puntarenas, while José Luis Jiménez was sentenced to 50 days in prison and fined $16,500 after being sued by a public employee accused of misusing government funds.

According to Serrano, the Sala III absolved Camacho following an appeal by the daily. Jiménez’s case remains under review by the high court.

In the most recent case against a journalist, the

Goicoechea Court

absolved Ana María Navarro, director of the regional paper El Norteño, of charges of defamation and slander. Her criticisms of Goicoechea Mayor Carlos Murillo prompted the suit.


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