Since the last meeting, the most important developments related to freedom of speech and freedom of information are as follows: After many months of persistent efforts by Transparency International (Panama), the Foundation for the Development of Civil Liberty and other civic groups succeeded in reconciling the various bills pending before the Legislative Assembly on freedom of information. The bill was passed by ruling-party and opposition legislators and signed into law by President Mireya Moscoso on January 22, 2002. We reported this to the IAPA, which wisely received the news with “cautious enthusiasm.” This proved entirely right. Shortly thereafter, under the pretext of establishing regulations under the new law, the government rendered it toothless, removing everything from it that could have been of use to journalists and ordinary citizens. The law was yet another mockery of the media in the country and the organizations that worked to get it passed, signed into law and enforced. In March, a bill came before the Legislative Assembly that was clearly a step backward compared to current laws, which are already quite restrictive. This bill would have established, among other absurdities, a system of government licensing to practice journalism. Unfortunately, the legislators dismissed the arguments against the bill and ended up passing it unanimously. Opposition to the bill was so great, however, that the President ultimately vetoed it. Another bill will proposed to establish a sort of prior restraint against certain kinds of yellow or sensationalist material published by some local tabloids. The bill was withdrawn before being discussed, because the media outlets in question agreed to a system of self-regulation that would prevent this material from being published. Unfortunately, the system has not worked, and as a result the bill is being resubmitted. Pending before the Supreme Court are several appeals alleging the illegality and unconstitutionality of the regulatory decree of the Transparency Law, but so far there has been no decision on this matter. A number of appeals have also been filed against authorities that have refused to provide information that should be freely available to the public. Some of these appeals have been denied, but the dissenting opinions of several judges suggest that all is not lost. On September 29 the U.S. ambassador to Panama, Linda Watt, in a controversial speech at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama, criticized the government for not repealing the so-called gag laws, which were established by the dictatorship in order to eliminate freedom of the press and provided for severe penalties against media outlets, including their permanent closure. On April 14, 2003, some reporters and a photographer for La Prensa were detained by Institutional Protection Service agents who claimed they had entered the president’s residence in Punta Mala. Authorities accused them of breaking and entering. But the municipal official in charge of the case, showing better legal judgment, said it was not a crime, but a minor offense, and dismissed the case.