This period was marked by great commotion and concern brought on by the intension of the government of President Ricardo Martinelli, as expressed through several of his closest associates, among them Representative Dalia Bernal, to regulate the contents of the media. In the middle of January, the President, upset by sensationalist news coverage on television, stated that Panamanian news agencies are “shoddy,” asking in a meeting with the largest television stations that they change the time schedule of the serials known as “narco soap operas” which dramatize the violence of drug trafficking and prostitution. One week later, Representative Dalia Bernal, who had been mentioned in a report on poor management of the FIS Social Investment Fund, presented a resolution in the National Assembly in which she asked for the reactivation of a “Consultative Censorship Board” as part of the Ministry of Social Development. Bernal warned that “not only should the soap operas be regulated, but also television, radio, and print news must be regulated,” but only after calling journalists “blabbermouths.” The Public Defender and the President of the National Board of Journalism rejected such a plan, agreeing that to reactivate a Censorship Board would be a serious step backward in terms of freedom of expression. In recent weeks, official discourse has been more moderate, even to the point of reconsidering more carefully the role of the media in covering sensationalist news, and it was recognized that the President “got out of hand” when he spoke of television newscasts. Such moderation could be based on the low popularity of the President and his government, according to the latest public opinion polls. The Department of State Communications continues to centralize official communications, although a certain relaxation has been noted from official sources that are beginning to maintain direct contact with the press. In mid November last year, a controversy arose between the Minister of Government and Justice, José Raúl Mulino and journalists and the media, due to the fact that Mulino had held a rude conversation in front of witnesses with the Peruvian journalist Kela León, to whom he had expressed, in reference to the workings of the Ethics Committee of the National Board of Journalism that “the only ethics that Panamanian journalists understand is the ethics of the dollar bill.” In the same incident, Mulino said that he had a spreadsheet of journalists who are dedicated to making positive reports on the government, as proof of what he was saying. When the conversation became public, Mulino denied it, but journalists and academics who were witnesses confirmed what had been published in the press. The matter of decriminalization of slander and insults directed to high state officials, magistrates, judges, and election workers, had a “bitter-sweet” development in this period. Although various court decisions had favored decriminalization, in the spirit of the standards of Article 193 of the Penal Code, a claim of unconstitutionality was brought against this measure by a maritime judge who had accused a prestigious, well-known attorney of slander, thus generating an opinion that could be contrary to the spirit of decriminalization. According to the National Prosecutor Office, although the wording that decriminalized slander and insult is not unconstitutional, it is his view that criminal cases may go forth in cases brought by public servants. Therefore, it should be possible to continue prosecuting journalists and the media on behalf of high officials, although such cases would end in a finding of innocence or guilt, but without criminal sanction. During the month of March the federal prosecutor’s office opened an investigation, based on published reports concerning the dishonorable discharge of then-lieutenant Gustavo Pérez de la Ossa in March, 1990—today he is director of the National Police—for having participated in an operation in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention during the American invasion of Panama . The operation consisted in taking American civilians as hostages to exchange them for Panamanian military personnel. So far, journalists Santiago Cumbrera of Panamá América and Alexis Charris of La Estrella have been summoned to testify. In both cases, the representative of the prosecutor’s office has tried to obtain the source of information, but the journalists have taken refuge in the protection of sources, a right guaranteed by Article 4 of the Law of June 29, 2005. Restrictions continue in effect that prohibit the print media from ownership of radio and television companies, through Law 24 of 1999, which reorganized the regulatory framework for radio and television services. The Law states in its first article that it seeks to promote and protect investment and free competition and the quality of licensees; however, it imposes a limitation on print media by preventing them from acquiring, managing, or operating radio and television stations in the Republic of Panama. It specifies that no radio or television station “may be controlled, directly or indirectly, by a national-circulation newspaper.”