Social Media Criticism Has Costa Rican President Hot Under the Collar

By: Fergus Hodgson - @FergHodgson - Jun 28, 2013, 11:15 pm

One might have predicted that the host of the United Nations World Press Freedom Day, Costa Rica, would soon face embarrassment — such is the temptation among politicians to violate freedom of speech.

Sure enough, just this week, President Chinchilla filed a defamation lawsuit over a Facebook post. Then she threatened to sue anyone who offended her on social media. The president added that “lawyers would monitor social networks for mention of her, with the intention of suing anyone who ‘defames’ or ‘insults’ her online…”

Her lawyer, Alexander Rodríguez, explained that this was not “a matter of cyber espionage or censure, rather a matter of respect” for the president. Yes, respect based on fear of prosecution.

Fortunately, Costa Rica’s censorship capacity has not reached the level of many other nations — such as Australia and China, with their brazen Twitter censorship — and people have flocked to social media to defy her.

You can engage on Twitter under the hashtag #LauraLeaEsto (“Laura, read this,” in English), and as the tweet above implies, there is little way to stop such widespread civil disobedience.

That is one positive to come out of this event. With or without the weak defense from her lawyer, people in Costa Rica know censorship when they see it, and perhaps that is why Costa Rica still has a “good” rating with Reporters Without Borders.

This follows a similar response to the Costa Rica’s Information Crimes Law or “gag law” which went into effect last year.

As a result of a constitutional challenge filed by the journalist Randall Rivera… the Supreme Court… temporarily suspended parts of the controversial legislation, in particular Article 288 [which provided] for prison sentences of between four and eight years for anyone publishing “secret political information.”

Under constituent and legal pressure, legislators then removed the most controversial components of the law.


Fergus Hodgson Fergus Hodgson

Fergus Hodgson was the founding editor in chief of the PanAm Post, up until January 2016, and he now studies finance at Tulane University in Louisiana and Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala. Originally from New Zealand, he has also lived in Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Ireland, and the United States. Follow @FergHodgson and his Facebook page.