OP ED: Or “Fake News” as the US rallying cry is.
The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) questioned the “abuse of the judicial system” by former President Ricardo Martinelli with the filing of criminal complaints and civil lawsuits against journalists and the media.
“The exorbitant sums that are being claimed through these legal actions against the media could generate a climate of self-censorship with unfortunate consequences for democracy,” the union said in its report on the conditions of freedom of expression in Panama.
During its seventy-fifth General Assembly – held in Florida, United States – the IAPA requested the Panamanian authorities to decriminalize the insult and slander against journalists and that the cases be brought exclusively in civil jurisdiction with due caps in the compensation that prevent, in case of a conviction, the closure of media.
The union, which brings together media owners, called on the authorities to take the necessary measures to guarantee the full exercise of freedom of expression and of the press, respecting the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec and international treaties that legitimize the universal right to inform and be informed.
IAPA recalled that Article 195 of the Criminal Code that penalizes insult and slander remains in force. Although it has been decriminalized when it comes to an official with national command and jurisdiction, the rest of the officials and former officials remain in force for individuals.
In his report on Panama, he refers to Martinelli’s lawsuits against the authors of two opinion articles that were published in El Siglo and La Estrella de Panamá.
He also refers that since March, the newspaper La Prensa and its journalists were sued 10 times by former President Martinelli and recently filed a complaint against the vice president of Information Affairs of TVN Media, Sabrina Bacal.
The IAPA also considered that the removal of a fence on the no-reelection campaign by the Electoral Tribunal affects the right to freedom of expression.