The Extra press group on Thursday presented an appeal for legal protection to the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica regarding the alleged phone tapping of a journalist by the judicial branch.

"We are presenting the appeal for the security of all journalists, so that we can continue working freely in this country recognized worldwide as a democratic country," the head of Grupo Extra, Iary Gomez, told the press.

She added that she expected the magistrates to take the appeal seriously and to "go to the final result" so that action is taken against officials involved in the monitoring of the telephone calls of reporter Manuel Estrada.

The appeal was also signed by the chiefs of other communications media in Costa Rica.

The case came to light last Monday when the daily Diario Extra complained that it had in its possession a document in which it was evident that the Attorney General's Office and the OIJ investigative agency tapped Estrada's telephone calls and identified his sources.

The daily called the phone tapping espionage and a serious violation of the right to privacy and freedom of the press.

Costa Rican Attorney General Jorge Chavarria acknowledged that phone tracing was carried out, but he said that no calls were listened in on, adding that in any case the effort was part of an investigation against a judicial official who is suspected of divulging confidential information in a kidnapping case.

Diario Extra said on Thursday that the Inter-American Press Association had requested information about the case and that, meanwhile, it is examining the possibility of taking the matter to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Gomez said that it is possible that within the next few weeks a meeting with members of the IACHR's special rapporteur for freedom of the press may be held in either Washington or Costa Rica.

In an article published Monday, the paper - which is part of Grupo Extra - said that court documents provided by a source included a report regarding calls and text messages between reporters and information sources.

"They are bothered because here we're getting information they don't like," Diario Extra deputy editor Paola Hernandez added.

Grupo Extra's chief counsel, Carlos Serrano, told reporters earlier in the week that the company would ask the Constitutional Court to intervene to "safeguard the right the journalist has to keep a source private and the right the people of Costa Rica have to receive information that is in the public interest." EFE