Costa Rica fell eight slots, landing behind Ghana, Uruguay and Cyprus, in a press freedom evaluation conducted this year.
According to Reporters Without Borders, which has compiled the list since 2002, the country’s archaic legislation and outdated defamation practices caused it to sink in the 2009 survey.
Combine a standstill attitude to media treatment with breakthroughs in other countries, and it’s easy to see why Costa Rica fell in the rankings, said Benoît Hervieu, Americas correspondent with Reporters Without Borders.
“In reality, 10 points isn’t much. But the cessation of Costa Rica explains why other countries rose,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Tico Times.
Eduardo Ulibarri, president of the Institute for the Press and Freedom of Expression (IPLEX) and former editor of the leading daily La Nación, admits that Costa Rica is dragging its feet.
“One of the principle threats that I see is that we don’t advance; that we stay in the same position that we are in,” said Ulibarri, who would like to see new legislation protecting journalists in cases relating to defamation and better access to public records.
There is legislation protecting journalists from imprisonment for defamation languishing in the Legislative Assembly, but no legislator has yet made a move to revive it.
Costa Rica is ranked 30 this year, far ahead of neighboring Panama (55) and Nicaragua (76). On the extremes, Denmark came in first and the African country of Eritrea placed last, at 175.
Countries are judged on protection given to journalists, changes in legislation and access to information, among other criteria.