Our beloved president Ricardo Martinelli, after blaming the PRD, the unions, pulpo Paul and the thousands of people who boo-ed him at the Rommel Fernández stadium, aimed his artillery at another favorite scapegoat: the media!
In this new bipolar episode, Martinelli maintains that the media set out on a "disinformation campaign" that detonated the violent protests in Bocas del Toro against the "sausage law".
These "disinformation campaigns", says Martinelli, are aided by "influential persons who are angry with the government because they now have to pay taxes".
We agree that there is reason enough to criticize Panama's mainstream media, but our criticism is virtually the opposite of Martinelli's inventions.
During the Battle of Bocas, we've been the only English language publication providing constant updates about what was transpiring. We were on the phone with sources, processing streams of emailed information coming in, checking what others were publishing and so on. The mainstream media had their reporters out there, but their coverage was often docile, and stuck with what authorities distributed.
For example: None of the media has questioned or investigated the number of victims - the government says two, some unions say nine. The media reported, and continue to report, two.
For example: Various papers and TV stations, when reporting on monetary damage, frame the story as if protesters caused the damage and not the government with first jamming a ridiculous and widely condemned law through the assembly and then repressing any dissent in society with arbitrary arrests, locking up journalists, harassment of activists and then opening fire on plantation workers on strike.
For example: Panama's media have given Martinelli and his clique free passage with accusations published in the foreign media about his involvement in money laundering, narco-donations to his election campaign, the involvement of his confidant minister of tourism Shamah in arms trafficking, the tampering with evidence by a disgraced prosecutor he later appointed as a Supreme Court magistrate and so on. The media haven't published about it, they haven't investigated, they have simply looked the other way.
All the above demonstrates why it is so important to have independent media in Panama that refuse to stick to the script dictated by the corporate news outlets and the interests that manage them. And this is why we want to expand our coverage, heighten our presence and reach, gather more and better facts to base our reporting on - in short: do a better job than we're already doing.
For that, we need your help.
First of all, we need you to continue to feed us with information. We can't be everywhere at the same time, and we need you to be our eyes and ears on the ground in those cases we just can't make it in time.
Then, if you think it is important to have this independent voice, we'd like you to consider making a donation. Bananama Republic doesn't carry advertising because we don't want the conflicts of interest it brings in a small place like Panama. We don't do PR gigs for real estate developers or arms traffickers like some of our less ethical colleagues. In short: our only source of income is you, the reader who likes what he reads and wants to continue doing so.
What do we need the money for? In short, we need to invest in equipment and transportation. Also, we plan to go bilingual to reach a bigger audience, and that costs money as well. How much should you donate? Here are some examples of costs we incur publishing Bananama Republic:
A $50 donation buys us lunch with that coughing man in a long raincoat we now only meet in dark corners of parking garages, and who gives us these secret documents;
A $20 donation buys us enough gas to criss-cross the city when there is a strike, a demonstration or riots going on;
A $500 donation would buy us a laptop that doesn't shut down in the middle of writing on its own initiative;
$10 is usually enough to shut up that obnoxious cop who starts hassling us about papers or whatever;
A yet unspecified amount is needed to defend ourselves against foreign criminals filing frivolous criminal defamation complaints;
$0.15 is what it costs per minute to call Bocas del Toro;
A $200 donation could buy us that small video camera we'd need to add TV reports to our coverage;
And last but not least: $5 will buy us the ingredients for a day's supply of mojitos.
So, if you think it's important that Bananama Republic not just continues, but improves and expands, please click here to make that donation. We'll put it to good use. And thank you for your support!