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Panamanian journalists oppose new bill that criminalizes “insults” against public officials

  • By Guest
  • January 10, 2011

By Ingrid Bachmann

Two of Panama's government-allied deputies have announced a draft law that would jail those who “offend, insult, or vilify” the president or other government officials, prompting criticism from members of the opposition, journalists, and the Panamanian ombudsman, Telemetro and AFP reports.

The bill – which would punish violators with two to four years in prison – was criticized by Ombudsman Ricardo Julio Vargas, who called it a step backwards for freedom of expression, as a 2008 reform decriminalized libel and defamation under pressure from citizens and journalists, EFE explains. The National Panamanian Journalists’ Guild has also strongly rejected the bill.

However, according to Telemetro, one of the bill’s sponsors said that the bill is not meant as an attack on the media, but to protect those who are publicly vilified or mocked without any foundation.

Four proposals to regulate defamation and libel have been brought before the National Assembly recently, La Estrella adds. This government-sponsored bill stands out, as it was written after an ex-deputy called President Ricardo Martinelli a “delinquent.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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