Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are two highly respected principles in Costa Rica, an exception in Latin America. Nonetheless, in 2022, the government subjected some media outlets to verbal attacks and their access to state-held information was restricted.
The media landscape is diverse and includes privately owned commercial media, state-owned media, cultural and religious TV channels and university media. Several media outlets provide both national and regional coverage. Journalists can exercise their profession without obstruction and enjoy a solid legal framework guaranteeing freedom of expression.
The constitutionally established separation of powers is respected, as are the control and supervisory bodies. There is no dominant party, which preserves the dialogue between the different actors during legislative debates. The state does not usually interfere in the work of the press. Nonetheless, in 2022, the government subjected some media outlets and journalists to verbal attacks, and some state entities refused to provide media outlets with public interest information.
Costa Rica’s constitution says no one may be harassed or persecuted for expressing their opinions, and that everyone may communicate and publish their thoughts without prior censorship. Costa Rica has also signed the American Convention on Human Rights, of which article 13 says that everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression, and that the right of expression cannot be restricted by any means whatsoever. Use of the Internet is unrestricted and fake news is unregulated. Instead, the country has bet on education as the best way to combat it.
Thanks to a tax reform approved in 2018 and an extended service agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Costa Rica is economically stable and shows good financial results. The government maintains a policy of controlling public expenditure, including spending on advertising, which has hurt many media outlets. The economy has recovered from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The main sources of income are agricultural products, the IT sector and business services.
Costa Rica is a fully fledged democracy that is renowned for its pluralism and its respect for electoral processes, civil liberties and political participation. Television is the public’s main source of news and information, followed by conversations with family and friends, social media, radio and newspapers. The country is a refuge for persecuted citizens from other countries, including, in recent years, Nicaraguan journalists.
Despite the government’s attempts to vilify critical media, journalists don’t face threats to their physical safety or imprisonment, nor are they monitored. The exercise of journalism is protected by the country’s legal framework, and the Constitutional Chamber protects the confidentiality of their sources and recognises the importance of press freedom in a democracy.