18 May 2011

Video hate campaign discredits journalists who disclosed WikiLeaks info

After reporting on WikiLeaks revelations - embarrassing Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli's government - local journalists have been the target of a campaign to sully their reputations in videos posted anonymously on YouTube and through television ads, report the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Simply for relaying information that had already been released by WikiLeaks, powerful individuals have lobbed a kind of "crass vengeance" at newspaper journalists, says RSF.

Journalists at the newspaper "La Prensa" have borne the brunt of the attacks. Over the weekend, the governing Democratic Change Party broadcast a video spot on television to tarnish the integrity of "La Prensa" reporter Santiago Cumbrera after his investigations of WikiLeaks cables that exposed government officials.

Another video posed questions about both the professional and personal life of Lina Vega Abad, the head of the investigative reporting team at "La Prensa". This could be perceived as retaliation for reporting on government wrongdoing. A video posted on 28 April on YouTube denounced Vega Abad as a "manipulator of information", reports RSF.

View the video below.

In 2010, anonymous videos were used to try to discredit Mónica Palm, the legal affairs editor of "La Prensa" at the time. Another video attacking Palm has been circulating again.

Last month, Alvaro Alvarado, a reporter and host of TV Canal 13's morning news programme "Telemetro", complained of attempts to discredit him.

According to RSF, the videos stigmatise the journalists by linking them to the main opposition, the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

"While the anonymous defamatory messages should not be taken as fact, if they are not investigated they will help create a climate of intolerance and intimidation that weakens the public's ability to receive information," said IAPA.

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