The Cinta Costera shakedown

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The government is now going against free news gathering in parts of Panama City. A couple of days ago, TVN was removed from the area while they were filming there, and agents of the SPI - roughly the equivalent of the US secret service - threatened to break a camera of the TV crew.

Supposedly, you need a permit now to film there, from the Ministry of Public Works.

Yours truly dealt with a similar situation some months ago when filming there with a Dutch TV crew. A municipal cop, or park ranger, approached us to ask for our permit. I explained him we didn't need one. He insisted we needed permission from the Municipality to film there. "Show me that rule", I replied.

Finally he said that he was "willing to help us", which means we had to pay him a bribe. I refused, and told him to go get his superiors. He insisted, until I explained to him that the camera had been recording our conversation and I'd make it public if he wouldn't bugger off. So off he went, we finished filming and then left.

You see, press freedom is something you have to take from these gorillas, not ask for.

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