News media, distributors and journalists are exempted from the restrictions in the state of emergency imposed by the national government on March 13 and the application of a 24-hour curfew to counteract the coronavirus pandemic.
In a general framework of reduction of economic activities the media, in particular the print ones, have seen a drastic fall in their circulation and income from advertising.
In November there was produced the filtering of conversations by WhatsApp of former president Juan Carlos Varela with local officials, those of other countries, businessmen and journalists, which left uncovered the trafficking of influences and the tense relationship between those in power and news media. The National Journalism Council proclaimed the value of journalism in a democracy and the right of citizens to express themselves through social media without fear of being persecuted.
Thirty-seven reporters and editors of the newspapers La Prensa and Mi Diario have been accused by former president Ricardo Martinelli of possibly committing crimes against honor. Fifteen (15) lawsuits have been filed and eleven (11) admitted, whose claims amount to $ 46,100,000
Legislation enables the claimant to seek the freezing of assets, which could paralyze the continuous and uninterrupted operation of the media. Some years ago it was prohibited that this action reach the radio and television media, but not the print and digital media and journalists.
It continues in force Article 195 of the Penal Code which characterizes libel and defamation. Although defamation has remained decriminalized when the "alleged victim" is an official with mandate and national jurisdiction it remains in force for private individuals and the rest of the officials and former officials. Those responsible will be able to be punished with between six years and 18 months of imprisonment or its equivalent in daily fines.
In addition, the financial reparations have no limits and can serve to intimidate journalists or lead to the shutdown of a media outlet.
The Attorney General's Office is continuing the investigations called "New Business" on the purchase of the EPASA group by its current owners. EPASA considers that it is a reprisal against Panamá-América and Crítica for the denunciations of corruption that they publish. The investigations have taken more than two years, since June 2017, and sectors of the press claim that the Attorney General's Office should conclude them in order to avoid that there continue being affected the normal functioning of those media.
There remains in process in the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) a bill for a Communications Law that establishes mechanisms of control of the media and journalists on the part of governments.