PANAMA


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press


JANUARY 30, 2004
Posted: March 24, 2004

Roberto Eisenmann Jr., freelance
LEGAL ACTION

Eisenmann, founder of the Panama City-based daily La Prensa, was charged with criminal defamation. The case stems from a January 30 column in La Prensa in which Eisenmann accused Attorney General José Antonio Sossa of "protecting criminals and filing charges against journalists." Sossa then filed a lawsuit against the journalist.

Panamanian authorities summoned Eisenmann, who now leads a nonprofit organization, for questioning in the first week of February. On February 15, the prosecutor issued an order barring Eisenmann from leaving the country. After the prosecutor summoned the journalist three times and he refused to answer any questions, Eisenmann was declared in contempt.

On March 24, at around 10:30 a.m., officers from the Technical Judicial Police came to Eisenmann's offices in Panama's capital, Panama City, and took the journalist to the prosecutor's office for questioning. After answering the questions, Eisnemann was freed but remains barred from leaving the country.

In Panama, a country known for its restrictive press laws, almost half the media's work force have criminal libel or slander cases pending against them. Public officials filed the suits in 70 percent of those cases.