PANAMA After 21 years of military rule, journalism is now practiced freely in Panama. The news media enjoy good finanCial health and reflect a wide range of opinions, including those offered by the friends of General Noriega. Nevertheless, there are still undeSirable situations which seriously darken the panorama. The press laws of the dictatorship are still in effect, despite numerous promises to revoke them. Signs in recent months seem to indicate agreement for a project to eliminate the restrictive press laws. President Endara has also agreed to transfer crimes against honor from the criminal to the civil code, as long as an acceptable formula can be found to introduce the concept of punitive damages. Work is now underway on this project. Opposition legislators, particularly from the Christian Democratic Party, have indicated they may vote for the law once the government introduces a bill. The government has brought two libel suits based on the existing laws left from the dictatorship. One is against Dagoberto Franco of El Siglo and the other against political cartoonist Joaquin Carrasquilla of La Prensa. The latter suit has been withdrawn. The Franco suit is still pending and warrants watching by the IAPA. The legal and financial problems of the publishing company, Editora Panama-America, the result of arbitrary actions by the military regime, have not been resolved despite a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court. The IAPA has carried on an intense campaign on this issue, particularly against the manager of the Banco Nacional. The bank holds a mortgage on the assets of Editora Panama-America to guarantee debts incurred by the military when they confiscated the firm's facilities and created Editora Renovación. The mortgage, valued at nearly $2 million, has prevented Editora Panama-America from obtaining credit to make urgent investments. President Endara, who until now has backed the Banco Nacional manager, informed Eduardo Ulibarri, president of the Freedom of the Press Committee on October 18 that he was prepared to have the case resolved through conciliation or arbitration, provided the Controller General of the Republic approves. Editora Panama-America is facing more than 300 labor claims from employees who had been contracted by Editora Renovación during the time of the dictatorship.