Nearshore Americas

Is Freedom of the Press Under Fire in Panama?

Source: Digital Journal

The President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, has been accused of trying to cut down the freedom of the press in the Latin American country by owners of media companies and by opposition party politicians.

Mr Martinelli, 59, made his fortune in the supermarket business before becoming a politician and being elected president in 2009. El Pais newspaper, in a report on Jan 6, quotes Guillermo Adames, the owner of Radio Omego Stereo in the country’s capital as saying Martinelli has a bad dermatology problem – he has thin skin when it comes to tolerating criticism and dissent. They sent the taxman to come see me after I questioned the government in a radio commentary and in the newspaper La Prensa. I think this was part of a campaign of intimidation so that there would be no such criticism from journalists or media owners.

Other media owners, including the owner of La Prensa, the main daily newspaper in Panama, have also received visits from the tax inspectors of the Ministry of Economics.

According to Newsroom Panama, fifteen company presidents are demanding a public apology from the President after he had launched a scathing attack on businesses and especially the media, calling them ‘thieves’ amongst other insults, in his new year speech to the National assembly.

Martinelli replied to the allegations on Twitter saying “It seems the best recipe to avoid paying taxes is criticizing the government, and when they catch you, then they cry that you are attacking political liberties.”

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The Republic of Panama is the southernmost of the Central American countries with a population of approximately 3 million people. It was once part of the Spanish Empire and has suffered a chequered history since gaining independence. The country is most famous for the Panama canal which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.


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