11 August 2000


RSF asks "for a fair and equitable process" in case of four journalists accused of defamation

Incident details

Gustavo Gorriti, Miren Gutiérrez, Mónica Palm


legal action

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(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Winston Spadafora Franco, minister of interior and justice, RSF protested "the irregularities which have marked the legal proceedings lodged against journalists Miren Gutiérrez, Monica Palm, Gustavo Gorriti and Rolando Rodríguez of 'La Prensa' daily". The journalists are accused of defaming and insulting Attorney General José Antonio Sossa. The organisation asked the minister to ensure that "the case is treated in a fair and equitable manner". Knowing that these four journalists may receive a maximum sentence of two years in prison, Robert Ménard, RSF's secretary general, once more asked the Panamanian government "to repeal all laws which penalise press crimes with prison sentences."

According to information collected by RSF, at 6:00 a.m. (local time) on 8 August 2000, agents of the Technical Judicial Police (Policía Técnica Judicial, PTJ) arrived at the home of the "La Prensa" associate director, Gorriti, and those of Gutiérrez, Palm and Rodríguez, journalists at the daily. The police officers had a summons order issued on 1 August by prosecutor Armando Fuentes. The order was executed, despite the habeas corpus writ filed with the Second Tribunal of Justice the previous day by the journalists' lawyer, Alejandro Watson. In accordance with the structure of the Panamanian judicial system, Attorney Fuentes is subordinate to Attorney General Sossa, who filed the suit against the journalists.

The suit was filed on 25 October 1999, under Article 175 of the Penal Code, which stipulates that anyone who publishes or reproduces information harmful to an individual's reputation in any media, may be sentenced to 18 to 24 months in prison. Sossa accuses "La Prensa" of having published a number of articles in its 7 and 8 August 1999 editions, in which he was alleged to have protected an American businessman, who is suspected of being involved in drug trafficking.


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