Reporters Without Borders today condemned the political pressure that was apparently responsible for the daily newspaper El Siglo’s decision to fire reporter Rafael Antonio Ruiz and deputy editor César Iván Castillo on 14 November over a report in that day’s issue that a presidential bodyguard was probably mixed up in case of drug trafficking.
“We are deeply shocked by this decision which flouts the laws of investigation, reveals the pressure that weighs on the press and encourages self-censorship,” the organisation said. “We hope Ruiz and Castillo will be allowed to rejoin the newspaper and that the authorities will take the necessary measures to guarantee press independence.”
Ruiz’s report was about the former head of the police anti-narcotics department, Rogelio Harris, who was arrested on suspicion of corruption and drug-trafficking following his dismissal on 3 October.
The report said Juan de León, a member of President Martín Torrijos’ personal security, was probably also involved and it quoted a source as saying Harris used public funds and his intelligence contacts to appropriate drugs from traffickers.
The day the story appeared, one of the newspaper’s main shareholders, Abdul Waked, ordered Ruiz to name his source. When he refused, he and Castillo were immediately dismissed.
The president’s office has denied that political pressure had anything to do with their dismissal.