The outcry that has followed the enactment three days ago of Costa Rica’s highly controversial cybercrime law has forced the government into a hasty about-turn. It announced today that the legislation, which provides for up to 10 years’ imprisonment for publishing “secret political information”, would not apply to journalists.
The law is not confined to national security but could also be applied to information “from national police bodies or security concerning defence matters or foreign relations” or which affects “the fight against drug trafficking or organized crime “.
In a statement issued a day earlier, the government promised to amend article 288 of the new law which provides for imprisonment of between four and eight years for anyone “who procures or obtains in an improper way secret political information”.
At the same time, the government pointed out that, under the constitution, it had a precise time limit for the enactment of the law after its approval by the Legislative Assembly.
“Even with the support of this argument, the enactment of such a dangerous law that has had such a harsh reception from all journalists is staggering,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At the same time as a discussion in parliament, there should have been a wide-ranging public debate around the extremely vague notion of ‘secret political information’, much of which is of considerable public interest.
“A piece of legislation that is so at odds with constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of expression and information should have provoked a presidential veto.”
The press freedom organization concluded: “The government should keep its word and ensure the law is amended so that its most repressive sections are scrapped. In our view, this should apply not only to qualified journalists or those employed by media organizations. It concerns every citizen, blogger or writer able to research and produce news and information. In other words, no-one should have to regard this law as a threat.”