New York, December 20, 2016–Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein is due to be released unconditionally from a Panamanian prison by December 23, his lawyer Manuel Succari told CPJ today. The journalist was named in a list published by the government today of people whose sentences were reduced as part of a presidential pardon. Ornstein was arrested November 15 over a criminal defamation conviction dating back to 2012, which carried a 20-month prison term, his lawyer said.
“We are glad that Okke Ornstein will be set free, but he should never have been arrested in the first place,” said Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas at CPJ. “We urge Panamanian authorities to eliminate all criminal defamation provisions and bring their laws in line with international standards.”
Lauría and CPJ correspondent Jan-Albert Hootsen met with Ornstein in Panama’s Renacer prison December 3. Lauría and Hootsen raised his case and Panama’s outdated criminal defamation laws with Panamanian officials and Dutch diplomats in Panama City.
Ornstein was one of four journalists in jail in the Americas for their work on December 1, 2016, CPJ’s prison census shows.