Afrique Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Panama21 June 2006

100 journalists protest against bill to stiffen penalties for press offences

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about a proposed amendment to the Panamanian criminal code that would significantly increase prison sentences and other penalties for journalists convicted of defamation, insult or damage to a person’s reputation. Around 100 members of the press demonstrated in the centre of Panama City yesterday to demand the bill’s withdrawal.

“A disproportion between offence and penalty has an inhibiting effect on journalists and violates their right to inform and society’s right to be informed,” the press freedom organisation said. “We condemn this bill, which runs counter to the progress Panama has made in press freedom and free expression, especially by signing the Declaration of Chapultepec in June 1994 and repealing the gag laws in December 1999.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We appeal to President Martin Torrijos’ government and the national assembly to reject this amendment and to make the decriminalization of press offences their priority. And we extend our support to the journalists currently staging protests.”

The prison terms for defamation and insult are doubled under the proposed amendment. They would be two to three years in prison (or a daily fine) for defamation and one to two years in prison for insult.

Gonzalo Marroquín, the chairman of the Inter-American Press Association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said the bill would run counter to the principles of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the prevailing tendency in Latin America to decriminalize press offences.

Presidential chief of staff Ubaldino Real said it would be desirable for journalists to be part of the commission that will examine the bill, which will probably be submitted to parliament in September.

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
17 November - Panama
Newspaper fires two journalists for refusing to name source

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