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Construction workers block newspaper offices with trucks in Panama

In an attempt to block the circulation of the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, construction workers besieged the publication's offices late in the evening Thursday, Aug. 2, until the early morning of Friday, Aug. 3, according to the newspaper.

Workers from the construction company Transcaribe Trading (TCT) blocked the newspaper building's entrance with several tow trucks for nearly three hours after the newspaper published a story about irregular contracts between TCT and the Ministry of Public Works, reported the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

The national police arrived at the scene but agents said they could not remove the vehicles because they were private property. Panamanian public officials like Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, and Grisell Bethancourt, president of the National Union of Journalists, showed up to denounce the blockade of the newspaper and demanded the removal of the trucks, reported Radio Panamá.

Employees attempting to mediate the conflict formed a human chain to allow the first copies of the newspaper Mi Diario to leave the building until the president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, arrived. Martinelli ordered the trucks to disperse, calling the events "deplorable," according to La Prensa.

Businessman Roberto Eisenmann, Jr., founder of La Prensa, blamed President Martinelli for the blockade, accusing him of being the true owner of the implicated company. Minister of Public Works Federico Suárez denied the accusations. TCT employees warned that protests would continue until the newspaper published their position, according to La Prensa.

The "restriction of the free circulation of the media and its reports are severe violations of freedom of the press and the public's right to information," said IAPA President of the Committee on Freedom of The Press and Information Gustavo Mohme, according to the news agency EFE.

For more on this story, see the video below from La Prensa on the Aug. 2 blockade.


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Guest wrote 5 years 28 weeks ago

No slap on the wrist

The bullies of TCT didn't just cause a day's worth of annoyance at the local La Prensa offices. They broke the law (artículo 171 del Código Penal/article 171 of the penal code) and violated our human rights. Police officers failed to respond in a timely and effective manner and now the prosecutor's office has announced that it will not sanction TCT in any way because this is a "business matter," as if that somehow precluded the law. Ludicrous. TCT has a right to dispute what's being published about the company and there are many legal avenues it could have pursued. But regardless of why the paper chose to pursue the TCT story and even of whether the info published was correct, TCT's actions were those of a bully who considers himself above the law. Worst of all, the government seems to agree that TCT is above the law. No sanctions, not even a slap on the wrist. For shame.

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