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Panama: The Communications Media
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Political Forces > The Communications Media


The press, radio, and, more recently, the television of Panama have a history of strong political partisanship and rather low standards of journalistic responsibility. The government has subsidized some news outlets and periodically censored others. During most of the Torrijos era, the press and radio were tightly controlled but, following the ratification of the Panama Canal treaties, a significant degree of press freedom was restored. It was at this time that the most significant opposition paper, La Prensa, was founded.

Throughout the 1980s, conflicts between the government and the opposition media, notably La Prensa, escalated. The government and the FDP blamed La Prensa and its publisher, Roberto Eisenmann Jr., for much of the negative publicity they received in the United States. The paper was attacked, its writers were harassed and, in 1986, Eisenmann fled to the United States, charging that his life had been threatened.

Events in 1987 increased the level of conflict between the government and the media. Strict censorship was instituted over all newspapers and radio and television news broadcasts. In response, three opposition papers suspended publication. Publication was resumed in late June, but in July the government closed La Prensa and the two other papers, as well as two radio stations. The English-language Panama Star and Herald, the nation's oldest newspaper, was forced out of business. The government pressured remaining stations and newspapers to engage in selfcensorship and attempted to crack down on foreign press coverage, expelling several correspondents. In October, President Delvalle sent to the legislature a proposed press law that would have made the publishing of "false, distorted, or inexact news" a crime for which individual journalists would be held responsible. Even the pro-government media attacked this proposal, which the legislature rejected. Although there were indications that the opposition media would be allowed to re-open in 1988, it seemed unlikely that government efforts to control news coverage would cease.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Panama Main Page Country Studies Main Page

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