Panamá: court orders seizure of assets in defamation suit against journalist
Ante los acontecimientos más recientes ejecutados contra ciudadanos vinculados a medios de comunicación, hacemos un llamado a los operadores de justicia a prestar atención a los fallos, decisiones y pronunciamientos de la Corte— Fórumdeperiodistas (@fperiodistaspma) February 9, 2023
Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. pic.twitter.com/SFcc6SZuG9
On 8th February 2023, a Panamanian court ordered the seizure of assets and properties of journalist Mauricio Valenzuela of news media Foco and Annette Planells, a member of civil society group Independent Movement (Movin). On the same day, bailiffs went to Valenzuela’s and Planells’ residences to execute the seizure of some of their assets. The court order took place in the context of a lawsuit filed by former President Ricardo Martinelli against Valenzuela and Planells for slander and libel. While the legal proceedings are still ongoing and there is no conviction, the Panamanian judicial system allows plaintiffs to request the seizure of defendants’ assets at the beginning of the lawsuit process.
Journalistic organisations expressed their deep concern about the legal harassment against Valenzuela and Planells. Four Panamanian press associations highlighted that this is not the first time a former president has denounced and seized property belonging to media outlets or their staff. They underscored that such actions amount to intimidation and harassment. On 14th February 2023, the InterAmerican Press Association (IAPA) denounced that defamation complaints and preventive seizure of assets were being abused in Panama, used as a tool to intimidate journalists and censor them. IAPA President Michael Greenspon declared that judicial harassment continues to be the main threat to press freedom in the country.