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Prison terms removed from press law

In a press freedom victory, a Costa Rican court recently reformed a press law by eliminating a clause that imposed prison terms of up to 120 days for defamation in print, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Provisions were removed from the 1902 Printing Press Law last December but only made public February 2010. The ruling was made during a defamation case against José Luis Jiménez Robleto, a reporter with the "San José-daily Diario Extra". Jiménez Robleto was accused by a former official after publishing a story on alleged embezzlement. The journalist had been sentenced to 50 days in prison in 2004 based on the archaic press law; his conviction was later overturned.

However, the penal code still contains elements that will have a chilling effect on free expression. CPJ reports that anyone who libels, slanders, defames or reproduces offensive statements against someone, even public officials, can be fined or placed on an official list of convicted criminals, but not imprisoned. "We now urge Costa Rica's legislative assembly to eliminate defamation provisions from its Penal Code."

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