Protests against energy projects face repression

Peaceful Assembly

Freedom of peaceful assembly is threatened in Panama especially when protestors oppose large scale development projects in rural areas. In October 2015, locals tried to block the transportation of an engine aimed to increase the production capacity of a hydroelectric project. Police officers used tear gas to disperse the protesters. Two protesters were arrested and one person who resisted arrest was affected by the use of pepper spray.

In late May 2016, members of the Ngäbe Buglé community faced repression by police forces during a protest against the hydroelectric project Barro Blanco. Journalists reported that an indigenous leader was arrested, while the National Police Department said that their presence was to assure protesters’ security and denied that the indigenous leader had been detained. 

Expression

 In recent months, the courts have been used to restrict freedom of expression in Panama. In December 2015, a judge ordered local newspaper La Prensa to pay US$600,000 to Transcaribe Trading Company following a lawsuit against the newspaper following a corruption report that the newspaper released in 2012. In January 2015, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered Panama América, another local newspaper, to pay 25,000 US$ to former Minister Winston Spadafora after the newspaper disclosed a information stating that the Minister used public funds to build a road in an area where the Minister owns a farm. In June 2016, journalist Ligia Arreaga Quinto reported that she received death threats due to her work preventing the building of hydroelectric projects.