Assault on press freedom: After TVN, Bananama Republic?

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Turmoil today in the media: One of Panama's kangaroo courts convicted two journalists of criminal libel and slander against immigration officials. The two, Justino Gonzalez and Sabrina Bacal, were held responsible for reporting that there was a criminal investigation involving these immigration officials for corruption. That story was true, it wasn't proven not to be true, but that didn't stop the "court" from condemning the journalists to a $6000 fine and prohibiting them from working as journalists for a year.

Yes, you read that right, these banana benders forbid them to work as journalists because of a story that was and is entirely true.

That same night, president Martinelli added insult to injury by announcing he would pardon the two journalists - which means that they're still considered guilty of a crime that they didn't commit.

Today, he worsened things by lecturing journalists on how they should do their jobs - which basically came down to him saying that they should stop lecturing him on how to do his job.

So, as it stands now, the courts can issue these ridiculous sentences for crimes that weren't committed and then we depend on the benevolence of our crime boss president to be pardoned or not. That's not a state of law or democracy; it's a rotting corpse.

We received word today that the prosecution will take a criminal complaint filed by Canadian fraud artist, money launderer and serial scammer Monte Friesner to trial. Earlier, the personera ordered us to take some articles down to "protect the victims" - something we didn't do and will not do for obvious reasons.

Also, given the way the courts operate in Panama in press freedom issues, there is no way we are going to dignify their mad circus acts by attending their show trials or complying with any sentences. No offense, but there is no reason in the acting of the courts or the authorities that prompts us to take them seriously or recognize their authority any more than we recognize the authority of the baboons in the zoo.

36 thoughts on “Assault on press freedom: After TVN, Bananama Republic?

  1. Or I go to this circus, and Friesner wins, and then I’ve legitimized his victory. Bottom line is I don’t attend a trial if I can’t get a fair trial. So far I’ve had to deal with dead poodle nonsense, a personera acting outside of her jurisdiction, refusals to provide an interpreter and then the latest example of how journalists are condemned for stories that are true. No way I’m going to get near any of that shit again.

  2. I think you are wrong to assume Friesner will win. He is not a politician. An attorney out of law school should be able to make mince meat of this farce. There are a lot of people watching these issues of freedom of the press. Not only yours.

  3. I have found that the fiscales in Panama very rarely turn down cases. Even when they know they are false. I have had two accepted against me that were so far out that I wondered if the fiscal was even a lawyer.

    They seem to take no moral or professional responsibility when accepting false prosecutions. When the cases are thrown out and they are shown to be completely negligent or acting in bad faith, there are no repercussions. No disciplinary actions, no fines, no damages paid, no apology.

    The criminal justice system, and for that matter the entire government, completely lacks humanity. Destroying innocent lives does not bother them in the least.

    The possibility of facing a bogus, state endorsed, criminal charge for doing absolutely nothing wrong, was the primary reason I left Panama after 8 years.

    I agree with Okke. No justice will come from this proceeding. It is a form of institutionalized abuse and should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately it is their serfdom so ones liberty, and hence personal safety, are in constant danger.

    I assume Okke that after so many battles here that you will make yourself completely unavailable and out of their reach. The new reich are dangerous criminals as opposed to the relatively harmless criminals before them. I truly fear for the safety of anyone who insults or threatens these simians.

  4. @Bocas,

    The law has almost nothing to do with decisions in Panama. They are adjudicated more or less on the following grounds.

    1. The personal bias and whims of the judge.
    2. Bribery
    3. Political favours
    4. Helping friends, which may include one of the lawyers of the case.
    5. A quick and lazy analysis, which results in a decision with little or no understanding of the issues or the law.
    6. A complete ignorance of the law and decisions that often do not cite the law let alone apply it.

  5. @FromBocas: Friesner is not a politician, but his corporate law firm and in fact the law firm behind all this crap is that of José Blandón and Herbert Young, and they ARE politicians, and of the ruling party to boot. This alone almost guarantees that there won’t be a fair trial. It would be crazy to submit myself to such abuse.

  6. @ the editor: So what was all of this for if from the beginning you never intended to engage this process. You knew some lawsuit would be filed, they always are. Why bother publish any of it at all? Why try to shed some light on all the bullshit that is going on if it is an accomplished fact that it means nothing?

  7. All Democratic, and so called Totalitarian States and All lessor Countries use the originality of LAW to secure the power over the proletarians and the misfortunate. They never abandoned their Cloak of LEGALITY! They always turn their LAWS inside out to make the ILLEGALITY of LAWS LEGAL!

  8. This a reflection of the Panamanian society. All Panamanians are used to being silent. Nobody says nothing. I didn’t see it….I didn’t hear it. I don’t know anything about it. They are afraid. Afraid of losing jobs, losing their miserable wages and losing good reputation (it doesn’t matter if they had any). They tolerate everything so they get out of their comfort zone. That is why the corrupt, thieves , scammers, and fraud artist can survive here. These corrupt immigration officer thought they could get away simply not being talked about. They were wrong so they got scared. A Panamanian told me that the other day saw a person doing this credit card fraud with his own eyes in a restaurant (you know this cloning thing, skimming). The thief just cloned a customer’s credit card. The customer was sitting next to him and the Panamanian didn’t tell him anything. He just kept quiet. This is what exactly happening not just on streets but in th whole society.

  9. allright, and I will ask again. Why bother to write anything in the bananama republic? why expose the creeps, knowing they will sue, and if and when they do, you will need to retract, or retire or whatever. Why do we bother to comment? Why bother if everyone accepts that the system is broken and it cant be fixed? why? What is the other platform? the court of public opinion?
    So all of you who decry the system, all you can say is that it is the way it is? And then we have the audacity to say the “Panamanians” dont care?

  10. @FromBocas: Who says I will retract anything? The effects of what is written here are in the public sphere – fraud being exposed and thus the scammers losing clients and support – not in the judicial domain.

    I’ve always maintained that these criminal defamation cases are a political issue. That’s where this fight belongs, in the political environment, and that’s where I’ll fight it. Not in a legal system where the game is already fixed against me.

    See it as civil disobedience if you want. I can’t reasonably be asked to respect people and a system that doesn’t respect me. I won’t. Fuck ’em. And I won’t change a letter of what’s written here no matter what these clowns order. This site is not in Panama, after all.

  11. @Bocas,

    I think this site does considerable damage to the likes of Friesner and the other parade of scammers. After the scams are revealed a large portion of the scammer’s audience is removed from danger. The remaining victims are either completely outside of the information sources of most investors or are hopelessly gullible.

    I have no doubt that this site in its current and past (Noriegaville) form has protected countless investors from harm.

    Fighting within the court system is just bad strategy. Simply responding to the legal system here is giving it credit it doesn’t deserve. Any reasonable defense must be made in the public domain or courts outside of the country.

  12. yes of course it does damage and it will continue to do so by exposing scammers — but if the publisher is sued and loses in the court, then it comes out that the information was all lies, and the scam artist is after all a totally innocent party etc etc. and to add salt to the wound, we will have the scam pimp lauding this and saying” see, I told you so”. It is unbearable to even think about it. Then, you have said your largest audience is in Panama. If your site gets blocked in Panama, we all lose. And then, if YOU are blocked from being here, how will get all the good stories out?
    With all the hoopla about freedom of expression, I would see it as being the best time to fight this non sense. The political climate is good for it. You cannot tout on one hand that your country is a beacon of press freedom, and on the other hand sue reporters for reporting the truth. Or at least if they are sued, not let the scammers win.

    • It’s much worse if you actually attend such a court case and then lose because the game is rigged. And with the current turmoil about press freedom, a conviction is worth about as much as a conviction from a Disneyland court. Less.

      Winner’s rants? Are people still taking that guy seriously?

      Oh, and Bananama Republic IS already blocked on the “internet para todos” scheme….. Blocking in all of Panama would result in even more bad publicity for the country, and a run on ways to get around it.

  13. @Bocas…What part of the political climate is good for defending free speech in Panama’s justice system?…The part about the Constitution meaning nothing to Martinelli? Or perhaps a completely stacked puppet court? The part about the ex attorney general being sentenced to jial for trying to prosecute a corrupt judge who just walked?

    There has probably never been a worse political climate in Panama, except during the dictatorships, to rely on the courts. All this talk about free speech is just that, talk. Martinelli doesn’t give a flying copulation about free speech.

    The Panamanian judicial system is considered a joke to the rest of the world so a conviction or a vindication means next to nothing.

  14. @Faustino, I did not mean the political climate in general, I meant that Martinelli has gone public in big ways in the last few days to expand on how good, respectful and protective he is about freedom of speech – well, let us see how that works in real life…. Mind you he went public because of international AND national outcry. That is what I meant.
    I feel it is one of those “if not now, never” situation. I know the system sucks, I know it is corrupt, I know all that, I dont live with my head in the sand, but the timing is pretty good.

  15. I agree that the momentum is there to make noise about it, to apply political pressure to have these laws repealed that are at the heart of the problem. This is what international organizations and the CIDH are doing right now, TV and radio interrupted the news by means of protest, newspapers printed page 2 in black.

    But that doesn’t require abiding the rules and showing up in court if I’m told to do so. I think it’s better NOT to show up.

  16. @Bocas,

    Sorry, being in CR most of the time I’m not current on the freedom of the press comments by Sufre99. But Okke won’t they arrest you if you miss a few citas for your indagatoria?Or at least restrict your movements to within Panama??

  17. @Bocas,

    Sorry, being in CR most of the time I’m not current on the freedom of the press comments by Sufre99.

    @ Okke Won’t they arrest you if you miss a few citas for your indagatoria?Or at least restrict your movements to within Panama??

  18. @Faustino that part of the bla bla associated with the pardon of the two reporters who had been condemned. The Pardon being the proof he was pro freedom of the press etc etc – it went on and on. He is the defender and protector of free speech if you dont know.
    @Okke you are talking about two processes, the judicial one and what is going on in the actual press, and the protest. But the press protesting does not mean one can ignore the court. You are totally playing it like Friesner wants you to. He wants you out, and he is getting his way.
    You are pissed off and you are reacting that way, but I beg you to get some more advice. There are loads of ramifications for not showing up. I am not sure what is worse, being condemned in absentia or being found guilty in an actual case, and that is assuming you will be found guilty and I think it is wrong to assume that. If the proofs are presented how can they find you guilty? And if they are not presented they WILL for sure find you guilty. And as Susan said, it might have ramifications for other appeals. If your case is not presented how can it be debated by others? (and by others, I mean others who matter, not us)
    And then all the proofs are public and presented and part of the whole sordid thing – you owe it to yourself to present them.

  19. Panama has never had a decent judicial system. It is a country founded on oligarchic principles which meant those in the club always looked after each other. Nothing changed with the coup in 1968 and nothing has changed since, except membership of the club every few years. However, institutional abuse has always existed and will continue to do so. After more than a century of this, I don’t believe governments in Panama really give a shit about their international reputation since they have always viewed money as being money no matter where it comes from: international aid, scammers or genuine investors. can anyone remember when Panama did not have a degree of bad publicity around the world? No matter how things go, Panama will always be a banana republic where who you know is all that matters, which is a tragedy because it is such a beautiful country.

  20. Eisenmann (the founder of La Prensa) did this once when Sossa was AG, he refused to show up when called to give statements. Eventually an “orden de conducción” was issued, which means the police will bring you in to declare. And then he refused to declare. His reasoning was the same as mine; he didn’t want to dignify Sossa’s shit with any voluntary response.

    What Ana Matilde Gomez did was a sort of a tamer version: She said that she won’t pay a fine to delinquents. Taking that one step further is that you refuse to be prosecuted and judged by delinquents.

    I don’t think they can try and convict in absentia.

    I’m sure there will be ramifications. But I wasn’t born yesterday either, you know.

  21. Although you see it as political, this is not political persecussion. It is one individual who is represented by a lawyer with political connections. Most big law firms have such lawyer(s) on staff. That Friesner’s lawyer is a partner with Blandon does not make it political persecution. It is still Friesner’s laundry that has to be washed in public, and frankly, I am not sure that the powers that be really give a damn about him. Ultimately, someone has to respond to the issue of free press, and that is an issue much bigger than just this case, although this case is part of that debate.

    I dont have a dog in this fight, but I would hate to lose this resource (this publication) and I feel that is where we are headed if it is left “to resolve itself”. As I said earlier, it is a selfish reason. And the other selfish reason being that I dont want to see that scammer vindicated, I want to see him shut up and shut down. By ignoring the process, you give him a springboard to actually get worse.

    Ultimately you will and must do what makes the most sense to you, so my best wishes to you to get this resolved.

    • The Panamanian government itself doesn’t show up in court when it doesn’t want to:

      “Aunque los magistrados de la Corte cerraron la sesión por la ausencia de Panamá al juicio, Cortez califica la actitud panameña de “ilegal”, ya que el Estado panameño incumplió el artículo 12 del Tratado de Tegucigalpa, que señala que la CCJ es la instancia para resolver los conflictos.”

      From today’s La Estrella.

  22. Why would any one go to trial when you know you are guilty before there is even a hearing on this event or matter?

    Panama only believes it is in step with itself period!

    Panama only cares about how it appears to itself!

    If there is a way of taking money or assets by any means possible, welcome to Panama!

    Money is the only thing that is remotely legal here in Panama!

    Panama habours Murders and money launders within it own Government.

    Why would they the Panamanian Government stand behind and stand up for what is moral and ethically correct towards it own Citizens!

    So, as an Expat or Gringo you think the law will be on your side?

    Yes, if you have more then enough money and the right connections to outbid your accuser?

    You may be surprise just how Just the Panamanian Justice system can be?

    At the right price!

    So, why go to court?

    Any right or wrong doing here on the internet is not within Panamanian jurisdiction!

    Especially when the servers are based in a free country with real Freedom of Speech Rights.

    “You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable, if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.” — Doctor Who – Source: The Face of Evil

  23. the Editor,

    It is time to slam Don the wanker with one of those honor suit for slander?

    Don the wanker is just another idiotic freelance moron claiming justice is for all here in Panama?

    He thinks he has a get out Jail free card?

    A man who only stands for the interest of ones self over the truth is hollow!

    Panama where the truth has become a four letter word!

    Honor is not a true belief, unless you are true to one’s own belief in real Justice!

    “Panama where the numbers never add up”

    Time is so fleeting when he will have no place to run?

  24. Well, first we are talking about two foreigners here, it is not like it is a case of a Panamanian against a foreigner. And I might add the case of a foreigner will a less than stellar background.

    I would do it because I would not want to live constantly looking behind my shoulders.
    I would do it because perhaps, for once, things will turn out right, and I get a chance to vindicate my good name.
    I would do it because otherwise, it looks like the other guy is in the right after all.
    I would do it because then I get to present my proofs and they become part of the public record of this process.
    I would do it because not doing it will make it impossible for others to take up my cause or make it impossible to appeal.
    I would do it because done right, this can drag on all the way to the supreme court, and by the time they get to it, it will be another set of players in place. People that will despise what Friesner stands for.
    I would do it because not doing it enable a set of people to drag my name in the mud.
    You ask why, these are my reasons why he should go to court.

  25. Well, if you where in this situation and it looks like the real criminals have you out gunned with money and the totally corrupt Panamanian Juridical?

    That is truly Blind when it comes to the scales of Justice.

    So if you where personally not guilty, did nothing wrong but tell and Published the truth and then were told you are now a criminal for telling the truth about the real criminals what chance in hell do you have a fair and unbiased trial here in Panama?

    Not here in Panama!

    Idiotic morons like Don the wanker who spread lies, deceit and is supported by these same Fraud Artists and money launderers?

    In any other free country he would a witness to the what has occurred not the the accused.

    When will they prosecute the real criminals and their shills like Don the Wanker and the Sam the Real Estate huckster?

    The lies these so call freelance hucksters and real estate know it all have cost the Gringo’s and Expat’s communities hundreds if not million of dollars with trickery and deceit to lure and then fleece these new comers of every thing they could , while being supported by the convicted criminal fraud artists, money launderers?

    Plain and simple there is no real justice here in Panama, period!

    There is no real cause to stand in Panama either you are part of this corrupt system or you are branded an outsider and/or criminal?

    Even when the Panamanian Judicial System has no jurisdiction or rights to hold you or condemn any of your actions?

    “Panama whee the numbers never add up”

  26. first of all Friesner is saying Okke is a criminal. The system has not yet ruled. You are assuming it will rule against him before it starts. Okke is not branded a criminal until the case is over. If he does not participate he will lose by default and Friesner will win in and out of court.
    If he does not show up he loses no matter what. So what exactly is the downside of showing up? Not showing up only reinforces the position of the scammer. If I was an outsider looking in, I would wonder why is Okke not presenting his proofs. Then all you hear is Friesner’s absurd one sided story and that I think is a big mistake.
    Several scammers and fraudsters have been taken down. But you have to take part in the process, otherwise they win and are vindicated in the publid eye, as in “see, all these were lies against me”, there are enough proofs to demonstrate these are not lies, but they have to be presented. You cant assume that the court is reading the bananama republic and following all the links – that wont do. You have to present your proofs to the court for them to matter. If you present all your proofs and then lose a case, then you can say the system is rigged.
    Okke himself has stated several times that he has won defamation cases, plural.. So obviously the system can work. Same with Eric Jackson, he has won his cases. So I dont know where all you come out stating that it is lost before it is started. It is like someone has played psychological games with you all and won.

  27. This site looks like a Wanker – Friesner Mental Masturbation! How does that make your feel that these two in fantasy over your picture? The one of his wife was actually much better!

  28. After reading all the comments above I believe that the best advice given to Okke comes from “FROMBOCAS”. His seven reasons to confront Monte Friesner in Court are absolutely compelling.
    Okke, if you decide to follow his advice and “take the bull by the horn”, I for one am prepared to contribute to your legal expenses. My suggestion would be to appoint a High Profil Lawyer like Professor Antonio Bernal, as your defense lawyer in this case and make this a HUGE STORY.

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