San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lawmaker Prioritizes Press-Freedom Bill

Legislator José Manuel Echandi, of the National Union Party (PUN), this week asked the Legislative Assembly to vote on the proposed “Law of Freedom of Expression and Press” that languished during the previous administration.

The proposal aims to modify the 1902 Press Law, which says authors or editors found guilty of libel or defamation can be punished with up to 100 days in prison.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) upheld the controversial law May 3.

If approved, the press freedom bill would make libel and defamation civil rather than criminal offenses, eliminating the possibility of prison time for journalists. It would also establish the right of journalists to not reveal their sources.

The bill, which industry leaders helped draft, is currently number 43 on the legislative agenda. Echandi is calling for a vote to move it to a commission, the Third Plenary Commission, to expedite its discussion.

If at least 38 legislators vote to support the bill, it will be moved to the commission, which currently has an open docket, said Adriana Núñez, a spokeswoman for Echandi.

If the assembly passes the bill to the commission, it could be debated and approved in as few as eight days, Núñez said.

Echandi’s proposal came after National Liberation Party (PLN) legislator Federico Tinoco and Citizen Action Party (PAC) legislator Alberto Salom awakened controversy after submitting another press-reform bill that calls for additional prison sentences for journalists (TT, July 14).


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