La Prensa (Panama City)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
La Prensa
Type daily
Founder(s) I. Roberto Eisenmann Jr.
Staff writers Gustavo Gorriti (1996-2003)
Founded 1980
Political alignment conservative, pro-democracy
Headquarters Panama City, Panama
Official website Prensa.com

La Prensa is a conservative[1] Panamanian newspaper founded in 1980. Established by I. Roberto Eisenmann Jr. during a period military dictatorship, Prensa built an international reputation as an independent voice, and has been described as "Panama's leading opposition newspaper"[2] and its newspaper of record.[3]

Under military dictatorship[edit]

The newspaper was founded in 1980 by I. Roberto Eisenmann Jr.,[4] who had returned to Panama in 1979 after living in exile for three years in the United States. Created to oppose the military dictatorship of Omar Torrijos,[5] the paper published its first issue on August 4, 1981.[6]

In 1982, Prensa editor Carlos Ernesto González was sentenced to five months' imprisonment for an article critical of President Aristides Royo, in which he accused the president of being behind an armed attack on the Prensa building by Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) supporters.[7][8] The paper was the only media organization to endorse opposition candidate Arnulfo Arias over military leader Manuel Noriega's selection, Ardito Barletta, in the 1984 presidential election.[9]

In 1986, La Prensa was still the only newspaper publishing reports critical of military leader Manuel Noriega,[10] including protesting the murder of Hugo Spadafora.[11] The government consequently adopted a formal resolution condemning Eisenmann as a "traitor to the nation". Eisenmann then reportedly lived in exile in the US for fear of his safety, first in Massachusetts as a Nieman Fellow of Harvard University, and then in Miami, Florida.[12]

On July 4, 1987, PRD supporters burned down Mansion Dante, a commercial complex owned by the Eisenmann family.[13] On July 26, security forces entered the building with an order to close La Prensa signed by Governor of Panama Alberto Velázquez; two smaller opposition papers were also closed.[3][4] La Prensa remained closed for six months, putting out its next issue on January 20, 1988.[14] The paper was occupied and closed by government troops again in 1988, reopening in January 1990, shortly after the United States invasion of Panama.[15] Eisenmann called the issue "the first La Prensa that we have ever published without threat, without being under the gun."[16]

Post-military rule[edit]

Following democratic reforms, the paper continued to report on politics and government corruption. In the 1994 presidential election, the paper opposed Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) candidate Ernesto Pérez Balladares—the election's eventual winner—stating in editorials that he was a threat to the country's post-dictatorship democracy.[1]

In 1996, Peruvian journalist Gustavo Gorriti joined the Prensa staff. He sparked government ire by reporting that a bank that had recently failed had been laundering money for Colombia's Cali Cartel, and that an agent of the cartel had contributed US$51,000 to President Ernesto Pérez Balladares' campaign. When his work visa expired, the Panamanian government refused to renew it, triggering a storm of criticism from international press NGOs and domestic opposition parties. Gorriti was given shelter in the Prensa offices, and the paper managed to delay his deportation through a stay by the Panamanian Supreme Court.[17] Americas Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued statements in support of Gorriti, as did British novelist John Le Carre and Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.[17] The US pressured Panama on Gorriti's behalf,[18] and the case was also added to the docket of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.[17] The Panamanian government relented, and Gorriti's visa was later renewed.[18]

In 1998, La Prensa and other Panamanian papers reported that the construction of a new Assembly building had been tainted by graft, and that a representative of the US corporation HNTB had distributed US$5 million in bribes to secure the project.[19] The following year, the paper broke the story that two members of the campaign of PRD candidate Martín Torrijos had accepted bribes from Mobil for use of a former US military base.[20]

Former Attorney General José Antonio Sossa filed a criminal complaint for libel against four Prensa journalists in 2000: Gorriti, business editor Miren Gutierrez, and journalists Monica Palm and Rolando Rodriguez. The complaint cited a series of stories the paper published in 1999 reporting that a drug trafficker had donated to one of Sossa's political campaigns.[21] In 2004, Sossa also filed a complaint against Eisenmann, who had questioned his work as a public servant.[22]

Former vice president Ricardo Arias Calderón pressed criminal defamation charges against Prensa cartoonist Julio Briceño in 2001 for a cartoon of Arias standing besides the Grim Reaper, representing his new alliance with the PRD; Arias additionally asked for a million dollars in damages.[23] In March of the same year, Pérez Balladares' former foreign minister, Ricardo Alberto Arias, forced out Gorriti and was elected the paper's new president by a majority of shareholders. The Committee to Protect Journalists, which had awarded Gorriti its International Press Freedom Award for his work with the paper,[24] called the election, and the resignations and demotions of investigative staff that followed, a "boardroom coup" that left "the once feisty paper a shadow of its former self".[25]

In 2012, La Prensa published a series of investigative reports of Transcaribe Trading Company, one of the country's largest construction firms, alleging that it had made millions off favorable contracts with the government. In response, workers from the company surrounded and blockaded the Prensa building, requiring President Ricardo Martinelli to intervene to end the standoff.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tracy Wilkinson (May 10, 1994). "The Ghosts of Panama's Past Haunt Elections, Spooking Some Observers". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Troops Attack Rebel Colonel's Panama Home". Los Angeles Times. Reuters. July 28, 1987. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b I. Roberto Eisenmann Jr. (June 14, 1989). "Panama Might Still Brake the New Narco-Militarism". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Richard R. Cole (1996). Communication in Latin America: journalism, mass media, and society. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-8420-2559-1. 
  5. ^ Juanita Darling (September 13, 1997). "Visa Refusal Seen as Effort to 'Gag' Defiant Peruvian Editor". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Historia de la Prensa". La Prena. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Panama Editor Arrested For Attack on President". The New York Times. Associated Press. November 9, 1981. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  8. ^ David Gonzalez (October 28, 2001). "Panama Is Putting Journalists on Trial". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ Robert C. Harding (2006). The History of Panama. Greenwood Press. p. 97. ISBN 031333322X. 
  10. ^ William R. Long (July 18, 1986). "He Sees Plot Aimed at Canal Control". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ Robert C. Harding (2006). The History of Panama. Greenwood Press. p. 100. ISBN 031333322X. 
  12. ^ "Panama Editor in Miami After Death Threats". The New York Times. United Press International. July 24, 1986. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  13. ^ Stephen Kinzer (July 4, 1987). "Panama Strike Called in Fire Tied to the Regime". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  14. ^ Elaine Sciolino (January 20, 1988). "U.S. Believes Plan to Ease Out Panama's Leader Is Still Alive". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  15. ^ "News Summary". The New York Times. January 10, 1990. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  16. ^ David E. Pitt (January 10, 1990). "The U.S. and Panama: The Press; Paper Noriega Crushed Is Reborn as a Watchdog". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 August 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c Larry Rohter (September 4, 1997). "Panama's Move to Oust Editor Sets Off Storm". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  18. ^ a b "Rewarding Courage". NewsHour. PBS. November 25, 1998. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  19. ^ Juanita Darling (July 27, 1998). "Panama Set to Plunge Into Big Public-Private Project". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Another Torrijos". The Economist.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). March 27, 1999. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "Police surround homes of three journalists charged with criminal defamation". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. August 9, 2000. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  22. ^ Transparency International (2007). Global Corruption Report 2007: Corruption in Judicial Systems. Cambridge University Press. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-521-70070-2. 
  23. ^ David Gonzalez (October 28, 2001). "Panama Is Putting Journalists on Trial". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  24. ^ "1998 Press Freedom Awards -Gorriti". Committee to Protect Journalists. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Attacks on the Press 2001: Panama". The Committee to Protect Journalists. March 26, 2002. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  26. ^ Randal C. Archibold (August 3, 2012). "Panama: President Ends Blockade at Newspaper". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 

External links[edit]