“The Fourth Estate (or fourth estate) is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. “Fourth Estate” most commonly refers to the news media; especially print journalism or “The Press”.” Wikipedia
During the Noriega years in Panama the press was bullied and harassed. La Prensa was one media that stood up to Noriega. In fact La Prensa was created in 1981 to oppose the rule of Noriega. Wikipedia .
In all the world the media is both the influencer and investigator, often a free press is the only loud voice against repressive governments and like Chavez in Venezuela. In Venezuela, Chavez slowly silenced the press, we have that same danger in Panama. There has been a series of events with a large local contractor that makes me wonder who actually runs this country.
“ARRAIJAN, Panama West. – The vehicular traffic on Highway Arraiján-La Chorrera was interrupted this Wednesday, August 1, for workers Transcaribe Trading Company, in charge of extension work this way.
The workers’ action was in defense of the company, owned by brothers David and Daniel Ochy, for the publications in the newspaper La Prensa in recent days concerning the benefits and infrastructure projects that have been tendered by the current government.
The four-lane road was closed with heavy equipment and dump trucks.
According to workers, these publications not only affect the company but also the workers, saying the protest action was clearly of the workers.
After 30 minutes to keep the road closed the workers agreed to open it, but did not rule out new blocks in the coming days.”
On August 2, the same company blocked the road to the Centenario bridge. La Prensa
On August 3 2012 trucks owned by Transcaribe Trading blockaded the offices of La Prensa in Panama City by blocking all access and egress with their trucks. The owner of the company David Ochy said it was done because La Prensa printed false statements about him and his company. What is alarming is that when the police arrived they did nothing, when the vice President arrived along with others from the press no trucks moved, only after the President of the Republic arrived did the trucks disperse.
The accusations printed claimed that the Transcaribe Trading was given over $400,000 million dollars in contracts by the government, including contracts where there was no work to be done.
I have no idea whether the claims of La Prensa are true or false. I do know that the actions of the demonstrators were wrong, the lack of action by the police was wrong and in this politically charged atmosphere we in Panama and around the world we the people need a free press not a intimidated press.
If La Prensa printed false information Panama has rather draconian libel laws, the arena for the argument is in the courts, not the streets. The government not only turned a blind eye to harassment of the press but several recent incidents have made government agents to perpetrators.
El Siglo a local newspaper, reported on 10 August 2012, Rafaela Sanchez, a RPC news reporter and his cameraman were attacked, yesterday, by five units the Institutional Protection Service, while preparing to make a coverage Chilibre Water Treatment Plant.
The lack of uniform law enforcement is a sign of a country that is not yet matured enough to enter the developed world. Lack of a free press is the sign of a government afraid to have an informed populous.