Panamanian journalists who criticise government policies and cover stories linked to corruption, especially international financial scandals, are frequently targeted for legal action.
Historically, the major Panamanian media have been owned by members of the country’s economic elite. Given its strategic position between North and South America, Panama is a major information centre for the region. The main newspapers – La Prensa, Panamá América, Crítica, Crítica Libre, La Crónica – and television networks TM and TVN, are concentrated in Panama City, the capital.
President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen of the left-wing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) was inaugurated in 2019, after beating a right-of-centre candidate. Cortizo Cohen succeeded Juan Carlos Varela of the rightist Panameñista Party, and was elected on a platform of fighting poverty, reducing inequality, and overhauling the social protection system.
Panamanian laws offer little protection to journalists. Journalists are often hit with defamation cases, leading most often to financial sanctions that represent a serious hindrance to press freedom.
The Panamanian economy is small, open, diversified, based on the dollar and highly competitive by regional standards. Access to information rests under strong government control, notably by way of official advertising contracts.
Panamanian journalists work in a relatively safe and protected environment. Physical attacks on reporters are very rare. The main threat comes from the legal system.