The Committee to Protect Journalists demands that Panamanian journalist Carlos Núñez López be released immediately by the Panamanian authorities, saying that "the verdict should be voided, Núñez should be released, and Panama’s legislature must eliminate all criminal penalties for defamation.”
Núñez was arrested in a Panamanian internet café when the police checked ID's of all customers against their electronic database using the controversial "Pele Police" gadget. Instead of investigating, searching and arresting suspects and convicts, the authorities in Panama are checking half the population using third world dictatorship-style road blocks and raids on businesses and other establishments.
Núñez, who is 70 years old, was convicted for criminal defamation, without ever having been notified of the existence of such a case against him, let alone given an opportunity to defend himself. Yes, dear reader, in today's Panama you can be thrown in jail as a result of a secret trial.
The case originated from an article he wrote for now defunct La Cronica, a yellow-press sleaze rag formerly owned and operated by one Ecolastico "Fulele" Calvo, which specialized in publishing smear on behalf of paying clients. As such, it had some limited folkloric value in Panama but nobody took its content seriously.
Núñez also reportedly worked for La Critica, the tabloid that keeps El Panama America financially afloat and that's also known for publishing paid-for smear.
Yet, the articles that landed Núñez in trouble denounced contamination of a river in Chiriqui. With daily protests against Martinelli's anti-environment laws and his curtailing of human rights and freedoms, this affair is an eerie preview of what awaits those journalists who dare to expose contamination of Panama's environment.