Afrique Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Panama2 September 2004

New president urged to repeal laws restricting press freedom

Reporters Without Borders called today on new Panamanian President Martin Torrijos to repeal all laws that still include prison terms for media offences.

"We urge you to remove these laws from the statute book within the next 100 days," it said in an appeal to Torrijos, who was sworn in today. "This means completing the constitutional reform project to drop article 33 concerning "insults" and repealing articles of the criminal code about defamation and tarnishing a person’s honour. These changes will highlight your commitment to press freedom," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"Outgoing President Mireya Moscoso’s pardoning last week of all journalists being sued for defamation shows the country’s leaders know such laws have no place in a democracy. We ask you to follow up her action by repealing the laws."

Article 33 of the national constitution allows public officials who consider they have been defamed to obtain a court order to imprison the offending person without trial. Articles 202 and 386 of the code of legal procedure and article 827 of the administrative code allow for imprisonment of between three days and two months, depending on the prominence of the politician or official involved.

The outgoing parliament passed a constitutional reform law on 27 July to repeal article 33 but to be valid it must also be approved by the new parliament which meets from 1 September.

Articles 173A, 175, 307 and 308 of the penal code provide up to two years in prison for defamation, insults or tarnishing the honour of a person or a state institution. There are no plans to drop these provisions.

On 27 August, President Moscoso pardoned more than 80 journalists being sued for defamation and thus risking imprisonment. Some of the cases dated back to the early 1990s

In this country
8 September - Panama
Seizure of weekly’s property and bank accounts slammed as a form of “Indirect censorship”
23 March - Panama
Dismay at presidential green light for two restrictive articles in new criminal code
12 March - Panama
President Torrijos urged to veto two articles in newly-amended criminal code
9 February - Panama
Press freedom threatened by law reform
21 June - Panama
100 journalists protest against bill to stiffen penalties for press offences

in the annual report

14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

Americas archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Sign the petitions
Miguel Galván Gutiérrez
Fabio Prieto Llorente
United States
Chauncey Bailey
A petition to Raúl Castro