President accuses Panamanian media of having hidden agenda

Just days after announcing a national dialogue on freedom of expression in response to increasing reports of incidents against the press by the authorities, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli accused media owners of having a "shadowy agenda," TVN Noticias reports.

At a press conference for an unrelated policy announcement, the president told journalists that freedom of expression was protected in Panama. “I let them ask me everything…write everything, publish everything, and broadcast everything on television,” he said, quoted by Hora Cero.

However, Martinelli said all was not well and asked journalists to investigate “the shadowy interests of media owners who want things to change,” PAdigital reports. In the same article, Guido Rodríguez, the president of the Journalists’ Forum, said he was concerned that the president referred to media owners in such terms, especially as Martinelli himself owns stock in “various media outlets.”

Over the last few months, the government has been involved in several confrontations with the press, including threats against a reporter who criticized the government, the expulsion of two Spanish media workers for their role in an environmental protest, and a series of videos linked to the government that attack journalists who published unflattering WikiLeaks cables.

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.