MIAMI, Florida (October 2, 2017)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today said it was closely watching a legal plan in Panama to penalize cyber crimes which could restrict freedom of expression and of the press.
On September 27 Panamanian Attorney General Rolando Rodríguez submitted to the National Assembly a bill to reform the Code that seeks to penalize new offenses committed through cyber media. Designated are child pornography, harassment, frauds, identity theft, cyber attack, interception of networks, and capture of bank data, among other offenses.
Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information Chairman Roberto Rock said that the IAPA will remain alert to the developing discussion of the reform, given the concern that the punishments could harm other rights inherent in freedom of the press and of expression. He added that the importance in these cases is the principle adopted by the Office of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission that in cases of initiatives to protect cyber space "governments should include explicit safeguards in the law in order to ensure that there are not criminalized regular conducts or those inherent to use of the Internet."
Rock, director of the Mexico City, Mexico, portal La Silla Rota, added that in the face of similar initiatives in other countries the IAPA gave an alert concerning a resolution that it made along with other world press freedom organizations during discussions at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society regarding the fact that the majority of crimes made through the Internet are already categorized in the existing Penal Codes and legislations "for which reason sometimes it is not necessary to add more categorizations that could incur punishment of those who disseminate information."
In that regard the IAPA placed special attention on what was expressed by press associations and Panamanian journalist guilds regarding imprisonment that members of the press could face for divulging information, that would contradict gains achieved with the decriminalization of the offenses of slander and libel.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.