23 January 1998


Journalists charged with slander

Incident details

Gustavo Gorriti, Rolando Rodriguez


legal action

(RSF/IFEX) - According to RSF's information, associate director of the
oppostion daily "La Prensa" Gustavo Gorriti and reporter Rolando Rodriguez
were charged on 20 January 1998 with "slander, insult, and falsehood" by
Panama's Attorney General Jose Antonio Sossa. In July 1996, the two
journalists published an article revealing that Sossa had received a cheque
for $US 5,000 from a Colombian drug trafficker as a donation to his
campaign for re-election to the Attorney General's post. Following the
complaint lodged by Sossa, Goritti and Rodriguez have refused to reveal the
source of their information, as permitted by the law which protects
journalists' sources. The date of the trial has not yet been set, but the
first hearings should take place in the next few weeks.

**For background, see IFEX alerts of 16 October, 22 September and 7 August

Background Information

On 4 August 1997, in apparent response to Gorriti's investigative reporting,
the Panamanian government denied Gorriti a work visa and ordered him to
leave the country by the end of the month. Facing intense international
pressure, the government reversed that decision. Gorriti had taken the job
at "La Prensa" in 1996 after being forced to leave his native Peru because
of his
critical reporting about government involvement in human rights abuses (see
IFEX alerts.)

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the president:

  • expressing concern that the legal proceedings against Gorriti and
    Rodriguez consitute a grave threat to freedom of the press
  • requesting that he ensure that the courts respect the right to secrecy for
    journalistic sources

    Appeals To

    Ernesto Perez Balladares
    President of the Republic
    Panama, Panama

    Send appeals via the Ambassador of Panama

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Reporters Without Borders
    47, rue Vivienne
    75002 Paris
    rsf (@) rsf.org
    Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
    More from Panama
    • Freedom of the Press 2016: Panama

      In a case decried by media advocated as politically motivated, the newspaper La Prensa received a $600,000 fine for material damage and moral harm related to its reporting on mismanagement of government contracts.

    • Freedom of the Press 2015: Panama

      Ranked 97th in annual global media freedom report

    • Midyear Meeting Report 2014: Panama

      Civil lawsuits against media organizations constrain press freedom