Reunión de Medio Año

Puebla, México

8 al 11 de marzo del 2013

In the discourse of prominent members of the government there has been no decrease in the level of confrontation with independent media and journalists, they receiving attacks when they conduct journalistic investigations into cases of corruption or do follow-up reports on actions and/or decisions of public servants that are not explained sufficiently clearly on matters of evident public interest. The newspaper La Prensa has complained of limits or discrimination in access to public information that the government, in particular the State Communication Department, has imposed on it, in not having it take part or be invited to cover matters of public interest, and impeding the entry of its reporters. In December, the Web site of the newspaper La Estrella de Panamá,, was the object of an online attack during the exclusive publication of a video showing unedited scenes of the transfer to Panama of former dictator Manuel Noriega and the hardly professional way some of his guards – among them the current Security Deputy Minister – carried out the operation, which caused a stir and indignation. The electoral process that will wind up with presidential elections in May 2014 is approaching. Viewed with concern is that the parties making up the government alliance have rejected the signing of the Electoral Ethics Pact, drafted and called for by the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission, whose object is to maintain a climate of peace, raise the political debate and prevent dirty campaigns. The media and press organizations have adhered to the Pact. The Panama Attorney General’s Office shelved the investigation into the attempt to prevent the distribution of newspapers belonging to the La Prensa Corporation by a company contracted by the government that occurred in August last year, which sets a dangerous precedent against freedom of the press. There is also continuing in the courts the processing of multi-million-dollar libel and defamation lawsuits against the newspaper La Prensa and journalists of this and other media, brought by people close to the government. A relevant development is the denunciations of some questionable public contracts made by the Tourism Authority, to which President Ricardo Martinelli felt that his family had been unjustifiably linked, announcing that he would take legal action against those he called “opposition news media that accuse me of everything.” Three days later, in February, he publicly declared that “if anyone feels offended, I apologize.” On January 28, the Consumer Protection and Competition Defense Authority began an investigation into the newspapers La Prensa and La Estrella, in an attempt to prove alleged monopolistic practices, noting that both newspapers had raised their cover price to 15 cents. Part of the information requested corresponded to confidential matter of a corporation nature that has nothing to do with the alleged matter under investigation. The investigation had began some days after President Martinelli made a reference to the issue in his Twitter account. Inappropriate partiality is noted in the distribution of official advertising. Now 16 months after the murder of journalist and radio commentator Darío Fernández Jaén the legal proceedings still have not clarified who were responsible, the motives and the plot. The justice of the Supreme Court, Winston Spadafora, brought an appeal for US$ 2 million dollars against Editora Panamá América, S. A. and journalists Jean Marcel Chery and Gustavo Aparicio, for information published in the newspaper Panamá América at the time he was Minister of Justice.