PANAMA Certain regulations are still on the books that, if enforced, would practically wipe out press freedom. The president has promised to present to the Legislative Assembly a bill, agreed to by the media (press, radio and television) that would repeal laws that could affect freedom of expression and would transfer the crimes of slander and libel to the civil courts, as a noncontractual matter. But he has not yet done so. The Panama Journalists Union has asked the Interior and Justice Ministry to enforce laws 67 and 68 of 1978 requiring "competence" to work as a journalist. The ministry passed the request on to the media companies, but most of them opposed it because the text of the proposed law agreed to by the government and the companies would repeal that legislation. The complaint brought by the attorney general against journalists Gustavo Gorriti and Rolando ROdriguez continues. It is awaiting notification of the parties to set a hearing date. The attorney general has demanded that Gorriti and Rodriguez name the source who gave them a photocopy of a check allegedly used to make a donation to his campaign for re-election to the legislature in the most recent election. Meanwhile the Labor Ministry and the Immigration Department have not extended Gorriti's permission to stay in Panama. Recently there have been some troubling incidents in which officials threatened journalists. At the end of October, Gerardo Gonzalez, president of the Legislative Assembly, became visibly irritated by questions of Justino Gonzalez of Canal 2 television and Manuel Alvarez of La Prensa. He insulted them and told them under the menacing gaze of his bodyguards to "get out." Ten days later, he apologized. Shortly afterward, Alcibiades Gonzalez, the mayor of Col6n, did something similar to the joumalist Jose Garibaldi of Canal 4 television, berating him harshly for asking a question that annoyed him. So far he has not apologized. On May 28, Editora Panama America, S.A. asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional several provisions in the Electoral Code and in Decree No. 24 of May 20, 1998, stipulating that the results of election polls must be registered and approved by the Electoral Tribunal before they are made public. This constitutes prior censorship which is prohibited in Article 37 of the Panamanian Constitution. The article states that legal action can be taken after publication only in cases of an offense to a person's reputation or honor. The Electoral Tribunal completely changed Decree No. 24, but there is still a problem of prior censorship in the last paragraph of Article 177 of the Code which demands the registration of opinion polls before they are published. There have also been some confusing cases of intimidation of journalists that the authorities have not clarified. The practice continues of harassing journalists with nuisance lawsuits that require them to appear at an endless series of court hearings. There are dozens of totally unfounded cases, that seriously affect many media companies, due to the constant stream of summonses to appear in court.