Panamanian president accused of leading defamation campaign against journalists

The Panamanian press accused President Ricardo Martinelli of leading a defamation campaign against journalists critical of his administration, reported the Spanish news agency EFE.

In the first semester of 2012, there were 40 attacks against freedom of expression, Filemón Medina, member of the Panama Journalists Union, told EFE. The report was presented to representatives of the Inter American Human Rights Commission in Costa Rica and to the International Federation of Journalists.

The newspaper Prensa reported the diffusion of an anonymous video on YouTube that attacked the Prensa newspaper journalist Santiago Cumbrera. In the video, an alleged former colleague accused him of sexual harassment at his previous job. The video had spread the same day that the newspaper published a special report about illegal land appropriation in which President Martinelli and minister Demetrio Papadimitriu were involved, according to Prensa.

Castalia Pascual, of the morning TV news program TVN, of channel 2, also reported on Friday, July 6, that he was a victim of a defamation campaign after a rival TV channel that supports the government broadcast lies about his personal life, according to the newspaper La Estrella.

In April, President Martinelli called a TV reporter a drug addict during a news conference.

Martinelli maintains a tense relationship with the Panamanian press, which since 2011 has been covering a corruption scandal that links the president to no-bid contracts and illegal land appropriation.

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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