CIVICUS

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Costa Rica

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Last updated on 15.08.2019 at 09:01

Overview

Costa Rica has long provided an environment where a pluralistic and diversified civil society has been able to develop and influence government decision-making processes.

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Explosive device goes off in front of Costa Rican television station

Explosive device goes off in front of Costa Rican television station

On 27th July 2019, a home-made bomb exploded in front of Costa Rican television station Teletica, causing material damage to the building’s façade. The situation is also worrisome because of suspicion that this attack was directed at Nicaraguan journalist Carlos F. Chamorro. Since January 2019, Chamorro has broadcasted his program "Esta Semana" from this television station in Costa Rica, having fled Nicaragua after suffering harassment and receiving threats for his criticism of Daniel Ortega’s government.

In this same period, several social movements mobilised to protest government policies for their sectors. Students' protests against current government proposals have gained traction and led to the resignation of the Minister for Education.

Expression

On 27th July 2019, a home-made bomb exploded in front of Costa Rican television station Teletica, causing material damage to the building’s façade. CNN reported that Teletica’s security videos show three people placing the device and leaving the scene minutes before the explosion. The situation is also worrisome because of suspicion that this attack was directed at Nicaraguan journalist Carlos F. Chamorro. Since January 2019, Chamorro has broadcasted his program "Esta Semana" from this television station in Costa Rica, having fled Nicaragua after suffering harassment and receiving threats for his criticism of Daniel Ortega’s government. Amnesty International issued a statement calling the case ‘deeply concerning’. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas Director said:

“The possibility that this attack could be related to the work carried out by the Confidencial team and Carlos F. Chamorro at Teletica is deeply concerning. If this hypothesis is confirmed, it would show just how far Daniel Ortega’s government is prepared to go to silence the voices that are courageously informing the world about what is happening in Nicaragua.”

The Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (Inter-American Press Association - SIP) urged the government to conduct thorough investigations. Costa Rica’s president Carlos Alvarado condemned the attack, stating that authorities were working to uncover those responsible.


Peaceful Assembly

In June and July 2019, Costa Rican social movements from various sectors, including transport, health and education, mobilised in protests against current government policies. In particular, students' protests against education reforms have gained traction and led to the resignation of Education Minister Edgar Mora on 1st July 2019. 

On 2nd July 2019, reports indicated that the police used tear gas against demonstrators who were blocking passage through key roads. No cases of injured or detained persons were reported in this incident. President Carlos Alvarado said on Twitter that his government was open for dialogue with the different sectors, but that continuing traffic disruptions would not be permitted. This has been a tactic used in particular by transport workers to protest. Alvarado warned that the government would act to lift such road blockades. Despite this warning, protests, school strikes and road blockades have continued in July 2019.

Association

The freedom of association is a constitutionally protected right and is respected in practice. Numerous organisations in Costa Rica are active with substantial involvement in policy making, official consultations and social policy implementation.

The freedom of association is a constitutionally protected right and is respected in practice. Numerous organisations in Costa Rica are active with substantial involvement in policy making, official consultations and social policy implementation. The government does not have, nor does it exercise, arbitrary registration or deregistration powers, and it does not seek to interfere with or subvert civil society in any significant way. There are no restrictions or prohibitions on foreign funding for civil society. Human rights defenders can operate freely with no regular attacks or threats against them by the state. However, there have been isolated attacks against environmental human rights defenders perpetrated by non-state actors involved in illegal activities. For example, in May 2013, an environmental activist involved in the defence of sea turtles was killed in a Caribbean province of Costa Rica, an attack that civil society interpreted as a warning to all CSOs working on environmental issues. The fact that the killers were convicted in early 2016, however, is also a sign that a cycle of violence is not about to be triggered by impunity for those who attack civil society.

Peaceful Assembly

The freedom of peaceful assembly is constitutionally enshrined and upheld in practice. Advance notification is required for gatherings in public spaces and restrictions on locations are imposed in order to guarantee free transit and circulation.

The freedom of peaceful assembly is constitutionally enshrined and upheld in practice. Advance notification is required for gatherings in public spaces and restrictions on locations could be imposed in order to guarantee free transit and circulation. Protests rarely turn violent, and unlawful police repression, arbitrary arrests and judicial procedures against demonstrators are unusual. Several protests occurred in the country recently, mostly related to labor and workers rights.   

Expression

The right to freedom of expression is generally respected in Costa Rica. Attacks against journalists and media outlets are rare, with only two cases reported in 2015.

The right to freedom of expression is generally respected in Costa Rica. Attacks against journalists and media outlets are rare. Prison terms for defamation were eliminated in 2010, and an appeals process for overturning sentences for criminal libel was established in 2011. Although Costa Rica does not have access to information legislation, recently the government introduced regulations with the aim of creating a more transparent government. The concentration of media ownership is one of the main challenges to a free press in the country.