PANAMA Unfortunately this report begins like so many others in previous years. Despite many promises made by various governments, laws restricting freedom of expression, the right to information and the exercise of journalism remain on the books. The principal incidents were the following: Citing a section of the Electoral Code, the authorities banned the publication of electoral polls because technical data had not been registered. El Panama America daily was fined $10,000 because, according to the Electoral Tribunal, it did not comply in due time with this requirement. The same code also bans the publication of opinion polls in the 10 days before elections, which amounts to prior censorship. On April 22, the daily La Prensa published a poll which showed opposition candidate Mireya Moscoso as the front-runner in the presidential race. About 20,000 copies of the paper were withdrawn from circulation by supporters of the government party, who bought the papers en masse by paying distributors more than the sale price. Complaints were filed, and they specifically mentioned names, places and witnesses of the incidents, but to date there is no progress in the investigation. The practice of judicial harassment of journalists and their sources persists via libel and slander cases. They also face legally unfounded summons to appear for additional questioning or testimony. Many members of print and media news organizations - among them journalists Herasto Reyes, Jose Otero, Gustavo Gorriti, Rolando Rodriguez, Carlos Singares, Marcelino Rodriguez, Carmen Boyd, Bias Julio and Jorge Prosperi - have received these summons. The previous government in its final stage promised to repeal Law 11 of 1978, which severely restricts the print media. It failed to meet its promise and instead proposed to replace the existing law with one just as restrictive. But in the face of the media's nearly unanimous opposition, the government withdrew the bill before it could be debated. On September 6, the new administration of President Moscoso named two ad hoc commissions. Composed of journalist and lawyers, the panels are to study restrictive press laws with the aim of drafting legislation to repeal them. Another aim is to make recommendations to decriminalize libel and slander. The commissions' work is progressing satisfactorily, but it requires time, given the large quantity of restrictive measures dispersed among many laws and almost every legal code. Arturo Arauz, a legislator of the ruling coalition, on September 27 proposed a bill in the Legislative Assembly to repeal the two laws most harmful to freedom of the press. He considered that their repeal would contribute to the work of the ad hoc commissions so that they could concentrate their efforts on more sensitive and polemical tasks. The bill is pending before the legislature.