Costa Rican court rules phone tapping of journalist was unconstitutional

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  • March 24, 2014

By Ingrid Vásquez*

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court has ruled that intelligence officials broke the law when they tapped into a journalist’s telephone line, the Tico Times reported.

In January, Costa Rican newspaper Diario Extra obtained a 200-page file from an anonymous judicial source showing that reporter Manuel Estrada’s phone had been tapped by the country’s Organization of Judicial Investigation (OIJ) without a warrant. The Constitutional Court ruled last week that the OIJ’s actions had been unconstitutional, Spanish news agency EFE reported.

The court said it had found no evidence of other reporters being spied, as initially stated by Diario Extra.

Attorney General Jorge Chavarria, who has confirmed reports stating he collected Estrada’s call records, denied ever listening to any conversations and stated that only specific calls were monitored as part of an official investigation into a kidnapping case.

The ruling states that neither the OIJ nor the Attorney General’s Office may use information gathered from Estrada’s phone as evidence in their investigation, and the records must be destroyed.

In early 2013 Costa Rica received Reporters Without Borders’ second highest ranking in the Americas in the organization’s Press Freedom Index. However, concerns were raised last year with the passage of the new Information Crimes Law, which allows journalists who reveal “secret political information” to be jailed.

*Ingrid Vásquez is a student in the class "Journalism in Latin America" at the University of Texas at Austin.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.