Under pressure from journalists, Panama squelches controversial libel bill

controversial bill that included up to four years of prison for those who “insult” the president or other elected officials was withdrawn by the president of Panama’s National Assembly, José Muñoz, EFE and Terra report.

The draft law was announced less than a week ago and prompted severe criticism from the opposition and journalists, who argued that it was an attack on freedom of expression. “Listening to journalists from the different unions, we decided to abandon it,” said Muñoz, one of the bill’s sponsors, quoted by Terra.

The announcement came after Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said that even if the bill passed, he would “veto it,” La Estrella explains. Groups like the National Journalists’ Guild of Panama, the Inter American Press Association, and Reporters without Borders opposed the bill calling it a “step backwards” for freedom of expression and reminiscent of dictatorship-era gag rules.

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.