IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018
Medellín, Colombia
April 13 - 15
In this period the national government maintained strong criticisms of the media, saying that they do not reflect the positive aspects of the public governance.

On January 2 President Juan Carlos Varela in his message to the National Assembly urged news media "to be the monitor of the positive results of his governance," assuring that while the screens should reflect the problems that the country faces it is necessary to show the other reality.
The media criticized that the President seeks to meddle and emphasize his mission of control and accountability of the public governance.

On January 10, after a demonstration called to denounce corruption, the Council of Ministers issued a declaration regretting "that the disrespectful chants made by these political groups that have been clearly identified have been taken by news media to generate news headlines, ignoring the fact that those who incited the people are leaders who seek to protect the corrupt members of their parties."

On February 8 commentator Juan Carlos Tapia denounced in his television program that the governement is carrying out a plan of dirt campaigns against journalists and declared that he is receiving attacks launched by "staff of call centers paid for with government resources."

Journalist Mary Triny Zea of the newspaper La Prensa filed a Habeas Data Action before the Supreme Court, in response to the refusal by the National Assembly of Deputies to hand over information of the public domain. The Habeas Data Action was admitted and given the unwillingness of the National Assembly the Court accepted two incidents of contempt. The investigation has managed to show that the Assembly allocated more than $80 million in subsidies and donations for beneficiaries, most of them false.

The Electoral Tribunal, faced with the next general elections in May 2019 and due to the new legislation on times and limits of electoral campaigns, is promoting the signing of a Digital Ethics Pact, which it has submitted to the media. It seeks that there be respected the electoral prohibition period; it attempts to avoid there being on social media dirt campaigns and that violence and lack of tolerance being promoted, and to prevent the use of false stories to give wrong information or maliciously guide the electorate.
The Bill for a Law on Cyber Crime is pending achievement of an agreement with civil society and defenders of freedom of expression. Noted were several rules that could affect the practice of journalism and the free use of sources.

The Attorney General's Office continues carrying out investigations called "New Business," based on information provided by the Assembly of Deputies on the case of Editora Panamá-América (EPASA) publishing company, which on repeated occasions has denounced an intimidating campaign by the government against it. EPASA considers these investigations to be reprisals against Panamá-América and Crítica, due to the cases of corruption that they have published.

Ricardo Chanis, currently President of the Grupo Epasa group, has not returned to Panama since his participation in the 2016 IAPA General Assembly in Mexico, over actions that he regards as violatory of his rights. On several occasions, including during an IAPA mission to Panama, the Attorney General's Office was asked for a resolution on the conflict so as not to harm the normal functioning of the newspapers.

There continues pending concern about the contents of Article 195 of the Penal Code, which categorizes Libel and Calumny when committed through news media. Although it has remained decriminalized when it is about the "supposed victim" being an official with authority and national jurisdiction its remains in effect for private individuals. There have been cases in which former officials have used this norm against journalists and media executives, against whom there have been lodged criminal charges based on this article.

There exists concern that the civil lawsuits for libel and calumny, on not having limitations as to quantity, can end up becoming tools for the closure of media.

In the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), based in Panama, there continues pending a bill submitted by Ecuadorean Congressman Octavio Villacreces, who seeks to have a Communications Law for Palatinto member countries "on the right to free access to communication" and establish mechanisms of control by the govenrment in order "to monitor and warn of" media contents.