San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Officials defend controversial communications law

Officials responded Tuesday to public backlash following the passage of the “Ley Mordaza,” or “gag law,” stating that the new law would not limit press freedom.

“The fact is that people will be able to do investigations the same way they always have,” Communications Minister Francisco Chacón said Tuesday at Casa Presidencial. “Everyone will still have access to public records. The intention is not to restrict the access of journalists.”

According to Chacón the legislation is not new, but rather an expansion of a law from the 1940s that made the release of state secrets illegal. The new wording, the minister said, is intended only to extend those same principals to electronic communications that did not exist when the law was passed. 

The minister promised a formal clarification to be released as early as Wednesday to further explain the law’s intent. His response comes in the wake of criticism from the Costa Rican Journalists Association and rights groups, which claim that the law is designed to cover up government corruption.

“According to this law, the publication of political secrets using tools like email, social media, video or any digital recording that is or can be damaging is subject to police persecution,” said Journalists Association President José Rodolfo Ibarra in a video on the group’s website.

Ibarra said that recent investigations into government corruption would not have been possible under this law.

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