Miami (July 19, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) remains alert to a conviction in Panama that provides for the seizure of the shares of Grupo Editorial Panamá América S.A. (EPASA), a conglomerate that publishes three newspapers. The organization will remain vigilant regarding the possible implications for press freedom resulting from the seizure.
The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, said: "Although we are respectful of the court decisions and will have to wait for other instances of the case, we are concerned that Panamanians will lose an important source of information and what strategy the government will adopt if the seizure sentence is ratified."
On July 17, the Second Court of Criminal Cases convicted, in the first instance, former President Ricardo Martinelli and other defendants for the crime of money laundering in the case known as "New Business" regarding the acquisition of the EPASA group in 2010 with public funds. The Court ordered the seizure of EPASA's shares in favor of the State and the administration of the movable and immovable assets of the publishing house that publishes the newspapers Panamá América, Crítica, and Día a Día. Martinelli was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison.
Jornet, the editor of La Voz del Interior of Argentina, said, "The IAPA will be attentive to the development of the case, will monitor the due process and the role that the government will play in the future of the publishing group, as well as the transparency of the process. The private ownership of a media outlet is indispensable to guarantee freedom of the press and the public's right to information."
Since 2017, the IAPA has been including the judicial conflict over the purchase of EPASA in press freedom reports. The case was part of resolutions, and EPASA executives presented their points of view in the organization's assemblies.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.