Defamation laws in Costa Rica have undergone significant changes in recent years. Here are some important points to consider:

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica decided to do away with the provisions of prison terms from the 1902 Printing Press Law. This is also known as the Ley de Imprenta. Under the previous law, people could face up to 120 days in jail for defamation in print media. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on this development.• Currently, under the Costa Rican Penal Code (Codigo Penal), those guilty of libel and calumny can be fined. The penalties for these crimes have been reduced significantly, and imprisonment is no longer an option.• However, things are different when it comes to threatening public officials. Act 8224 amended Article 309 of the Costa Rican Penal Code, making it punishable by imprisonment for one month to two years if you threaten a public official due to his or her duties. This applies to various communication methods, such as writing, telegraph, telephone, or usual channels.

The change in defamation laws is significant because it shows how Costa Rica is moving towards a more progressive and modern society. It is crucial to protect freedom of expression while ensuring that public officials are held accountable for their actions.• To give you an idea of the impact of defamation laws, here are some real-life examples. In 2019, a Costa Rican judge ordered a blogger to pay $68,000 in damages to a politician for publishing defamatory content. This shows that there are consequences for spreading lies and false information about others. On the other hand, in 2020, a journalist was acquitted of defamation charges after he published a story about a possible conflict of interest involving a public official. This illustrates the importance of having a free and independent press.


Costa Rica has made significant strides in reforming its defamation laws. While there is room for improvement, the country is moving in the right direction. It is essential to strike a balance between freedom of expression and holding public officials accountable for their actions. After all, the truth is a powerful weapon, and we should use it responsibly.

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is defamation?

Defamation is a false statement that harms a person’s reputation. It can be in the form of slander (spoken defamation) or libel (written defamation).

Can I go to jail for defamation in Costa Rica?

No, imprisonment is no longer an option for defamation under the current Costa Rican Penal Code. However, threatening a public official due to his or her duties can result in imprisonment for one month to two years.

Can I be sued for defamation in Costa Rica if I share someone else’s defamatory statement?

Yes, you can be held liable for sharing or reposting defamatory statements made by others. It is essential to be mindful of the content you share on social media and other platforms.

Is there a time limit for filing a defamation lawsuit in Costa Rica?

Yes, a one-year statute of limitations exists for filing a defamation lawsuit in Costa Rica. This means you must file the lawsuit within one year of the alleged defamatory statement.

Can public officials sue for defamation in Costa Rica?

Yes, public officials can sue for defamation in Costa Rica. However, they must prove that the defamatory statement was false and made with malice or recklessness.

Can the media be held liable for defamation in Costa Rica?

Yes, the media can be held liable for defamation in Costa Rica. However, they have some legal protections, such as the right to report on matters of public interest and the right to express opinions based on true facts.



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