San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Press freedom

Costa Rica sees slight drop in press freedom ranking, is the top-ranked country in Latin America

Costa Rica ranks 21st in worldwide press freedom and third in all of the Americas, according to the 2014 World Press Freedom Index released Wednesday.

The annual report by international watchdog Reporters Without Borders puts Costa Rica as the top country for press freedom in Latin America, a position the country maintained from last year. In the Americas, Costa Rica only trails Jamaica (17th) and Canada (18th) on the list.

Costa Rica did fall three spots from last year. Recent scandals could further drop the country’s rank next year. In mid-January, the country’s Judicial Investigation Police were accused of spying on reporters for the daily Diario Extra. Reporters Without Borders joined other press freedom groups in denouncing the alleged spying.

Later that month, the country’s leading newspaper La Nación received widespread criticism after suppressing a presidential election poll. Then last week, La Nación’s top investigative editor Giannina Segnini quit the newspaper over a management dispute centering around editorial censorship.

Segnini wrote: “A series of editorial decisions by this newspaper that were based on reasons I consider far from journalistic have made it impossible for me to continue working for this company.”

It’s not clear if those cases were taken into account for this year’s index, or how they could affect Costa Rica’s ranking next year. The Tico Times emailed Reporters Without Borders inquiring on these matters and will update the story with any response. Two key factors in the index’s methodology are “environment and self-censorship” and “transparency.” UPDATE: The index is retroactive from November 2012 to November 2013. The recent scandals could hurt Costa Rica’s ranking next year.

Costa Rica nevertheless remains a bastion for press freedom compared to most countries in the region. Violence against journalists and strong media regulation placed several Latin American countries outside the top 100.

Cuba fared worst in the region, with a ranking of 170 out of 180 countries. In Central America, Guatemala and Honduras ranked 125th and 129th, respectively. Paraguay (105th), Venezuela (116th), Colombia (126th) and Mexico (152th) finished near the bottom of the list.

Uruguay (26th) was the second highest ranking country in Latin America. Two other Central American countries – Belize (29th) and El Salvador (38th) – also rated highly. The United States finished 46th, one spot higher than 2013.

The report slammed the U.S. and Brazil (111th) as “New World Giants that set a bad example.” The report criticized Barack Obama’s administration for its attacks on investigative journalists and their sources, citing the 35-year-jail term for WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning and the potential 105-year sentence faced by freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case.

In Brazil, journalists work under a widespread threat of violence and major police crackdowns.

Guatemala had the biggest drop in the region, falling 29 notches since last year. Four journalists were murdered in the country last year.

Other Latin American countries saw major improvements in their rankings, including Panama, which moved up 25 spots to 87th. The Dominican Republic (68th), Bolivia (94th) and Ecuador (94th) also had double-digit improvements in their rankings.

Belize appeared on the list for the first time. The tiny Caribbean country was the only newcomer to the index. (Some countries are not included due to lack of available data.)

The countries with the most press freedom mainly were found in Western Europe. Finland headed the list. China, Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea rounded out the bottom of the index as the world’s worst countries for press freedom.

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX: Top 10 and Central America rankings

1. Finland
2. Netherlands
3. Norway
4. Luxembourg
5. Andorra
6. Liechtenstein
7. Denmark
8. Iceland
9. New Zealand
10. Sweden
21. Costa Rica
29. Belize
38. El Salvador
71. Nicaragua
87. Panama
125. Guatemala
129. Honduras

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How much freedom is Snowden experiencing in his new homeland? His exploits were published in the media here in the US, I will bet that if he did the same thing in Russia
while an employee of KGB he wouldn’t be talking,walking,traveling, or writing about it. Most likely he would be exiled to Siberia

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Truth Talker

One is a superpower and the other an emerging power. One for a long time was the embodiment of an established democracy where civil liberties reign supreme. The other created the conditions for developing a powerful civil society during the Lula years (2003-2010) on the basis of a democratic constitution adopted just three years after the end of two decades of military dictatorship (1964-1985). Rich in diversity, the United States and Brazil should have given freedom of information a supreme position both in their laws and their social values. Unfortunately the reality falls far short of this.
In the United States, 9/11 spawned a major conflict between the imperatives of national security and the principles of the constitution’s First Amendment. This amendment enshrines every person’s right to inform and be informed. But the heritage of the 1776 constitution was shaken to its foundations during George W. Bush’s two terms as president by the way journalists were harassed and even imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources or surrender their files to federal judicial officials.
There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama. Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.
The whistleblower is the enemy. Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case. Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records.
While investigative journalism is under threat in the United States, day-to-day reporting exposes journalists to physical danger in Brazil. With five journalists killed in 2013, Brazil has become the western hemisphere’s deadliest country for media personnel, the position held until then by Mexico, a much more dangerous country.
These tragic deaths in Brazil are obviously also due to a high level of violence. Organized crime’s hold on certain regions makes covering subjects such as corruption, drugs or illegal trafficking in raw materials very risky. The crime rings defend themselves. So do government officials, sometimes using force but more often judicial proceedings. Lúcio Flávio Pinto, a journalist and campaigner against trafficking in precious wood has been the target of no fewer that 33 prosecutions and lawsuits. It is a paradox of the 2009 repeal of the 1967 media law inherited from the military dictatorship that compliant courts are now jammed with requests by politicians for censorship orders against news media and journalists
Many of these politicians are what are called “colonels” – governors or parliamentarians who own the state they represent. They own or control local newspapers and radio stations while, at the national level, ten families control the broadcast media. This media model, which limits pluralism, was one of the targets of the “Brazilian spring” protests that were forcibly dispersed. The giant has been slow to overhaul this model, to the detriment of the many community and alternative media.

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Jose Espinoza

How does the US not have any freedom. The US spy on everybody including there good freinds. Press freedom in US is joke. ASK ED SNOWDON

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Lets hope it stays that way but remember we have Patricia Mora, Frente Amplio, in the next congress eager to curtail the liberty of the press. Fortunately, I don’t think she will get much traction with her fellow congressmen

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