Costa Rica's Constitutional Court ruled Friday that authorities had violated the national charter when they failed to get a warrant before searching a journalist's telephone records as a part of a leak investigation.
The tribunal said the OIJ investigative agency and the Attorney General's Office could not use information gleaned from the records search as evidence.
The judges also ordered the OIJ and the AG's office not to carry out similar searches in the future.
The matter came to light in January when Diario Extra newspaper said it had come into possession of a document showing that the AG's office and the OIJ searched the phone records of Extra reporter Manuel Estrada in an effort to identify his sources.
Attorney General Jorge Chavarria acknowledged the examination of Estrada's call records, but denied that investigators listened to any conversations.
Authorities were trying to determine the source of leaks in a kidnapping case, the attorney general said.
Other Costa Rican media outlets joined Grupo Periodistico Extra in a motion asking the Constitutional Court to bar searches of journalists' phone records.
One member of the Constitutional tribunal, Ernesto Jinesta Lobo, pointed out in the ruling that under Costa Rican law, not even a judge can require a reporter to reveal his or her sources. EFE