PANAMA Although more than a decade has passed since the end of the dictatorial government, many regulations are still in force that affect press freedom. Worse yet, a law was recently approved that seriously limits journalists’ access to public records on the basis of subjective criteria. But the laws, as damaging as they are to press freedom, are just part of the problem. There is a hostile attitude in the Public Ministry and the judiciary toward the media and journalists, in open violation of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The most important events affecting press freedom are the following: The Legislative Assembly approved a bill on the basic law of the Attorney General’s Office and administrative procedure in general. Even though the president was asked not to sign the bill, since it is thought to threaten the right to public information, she signed it and ordered its publication making it Law 32 of the year 2000. Now a bill to revise the law and eliminate the part that affects journalism and public records is to be debated. On May 9, the editor of El Universal, Carlos Ernesto González de la Lastra, called a news conference to announce that he was resigning because of pressure from the president of the newspaper’s board of directors. He said he would report the case to the Inter American Press Association, but he has not done so, because the majority ownership of the newspaper changed hands and the editor has returned to his job. The editor of El Siglo published statements by a lawyer who cast doubts on the attorney general. The official said his good name had been tarnished and summarily ordered the detention of the editor for eight days without right of appeal. When the editor could not be found, the attorney general ordered a search of the newspaper, although he did not have the authority to do so, because it was a matter that directly concerned him and he could not act as both judge and litigant. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld the order and El Siglo’s editor was detained for eight days. The prosecutor based his decision on Section 1 of Article 33 of the Constitution. It says public servants who have authority and jurisdiction to impose fines or order arrests can, in certain cases defined by the law, punish without trial whoever slanders or insults them while they are performing their official duties. The constitutional rule is regulated by Article 386 of the Judicial Code which authorizes officials of the Public Ministry to impose sanctions without trial when they are practicing some of the duties of their job, such as a deposition, an interrogation or a hearing. But no interpretation allows the punishment of a newspaper editor who publishes news that, among other things, describes events that occurred and were reported in the past and in which the prosecutor is directly involved. To punish without a trial is strange, but it is even more so when the person who does it acts as judge and litigant. Several bills of interest to journalists have been proposed in the Legislative Assembly. One would regulate the ability to punish without a trial; one would establish free access to public records; and one would make the right of reply more precise. Recently, Santiago A. Canton, the special rapporteur for freedom of expression from the Inter American Human Rights Commission recommended that libel be decriminalized and that laws be passed on access to information and habeas data.