PANAMA Some laws remain on the books which, if applied, would allow the imposition of very serious restrictions on press freedom. Cases in point are Law 11 of 1978, which authorizes the Ministry of Government and Justice to decree the closing of media outlets and to levy stiff administrative sanctions; Laws 67 and 68 of 1978 which require a license to practice journalism; and several provisions of the Penal Code concerning" crimes against honor" and against the national economy. Of greater concern is the recent passage of a "Family Code" and a copyright law which contain provisions whose confusing and ambiguous wording raise the possibility of their being applied in a dangerously arbitrary manner against the news media. In addition, several bills have been introduced in the Legislative Assembly that could affect press freedom. One is Bill No. 17, which "establishes as standard practice in the media the publication of messages against drug addiction in any form." Another example is Bill No.2, "by which provisions are adopted relating to libel [and] restrictive rules on freedom of the press are repealed and other measures adopted." Bill No.2 decriminalizes libel, but establishes in its place a regime of unduly stiff civil penalties that include barring anyone convicted of libel from working as a journalist. The Panamanian president has promised to withdraw this bill before it is debated in the Assembly to garner the media's views, then to re-submit it later with appropriate changes. There are also other bills being floated that would affect television and radio stations in fundamental ways, by imposing restrictions on programming, a classification system for public performances, and the obligatory broadcasting of public-service messages against drug addiction. There likewise exists a well-founded concern in the media over discrimination in the placement of official advertising, which is awarded or withdrawn arbitrarily to reward or punish certain publications. The most notorious recent case is that involving the Estrella de Panama, a daily newspaper founded in 1853, which has had the benefit of official advertising for many decades. But after shareholders decided to oust its editor, Tomas Altamirano Duque - currently Panama's vice president - all official advertising has been pulled from the newspaper, its contract to print the Official Gazette was cancelled, and the government retained ad payments that are due the paper totaling more than a quarter of a million dollars. Employees of La Prensa have filed a civil suit against the government, demanding more than $2 million as indemnification for damages and other losses they say they suffered during an arbitrary closing of the periodicai in 1988.