Two associations of journalists in Panama claimed today that the Police prevented two local channels from covering former President Ricardo Martinelli’s transfer. The former president is in preventive detention for alleged espionage, which represents "a serious unacceptable violation of fundamental guarantees".
The National Council of Journalists and the Forum of Journalists for Freedom of Expression and Information explained that the National Police "held" the TVN and Telemetro television sets that were covering Tuesday the transfer of Martinelli from the Supreme Court to the jail where he is arrested, "preventing them from completing the coverage and removing their personal identity documents".
"Given the facts, it is mandatory to demand clarification from the Ministry of Public Security and the new authorities of the National Police to ensure their commitment to the free exercise of journalism and the right of access to information," said the unions in a joint statement.
The statement of the police on the incident with journalists, added the associations in the text, "is even more worrying when trying to justify an obviously arbitrary action by citing the high profile of the detained citizen and a generalization that makes every driver of a motorcycle on suspicion".
The Supreme Court of Justice of Panama held a hearing on Tuesday in which it confirmed that the former president, extradited from the United States on June 11, must remain in preventive detention in El Renacer prison, on the shores of the interoceanic canal, during the proceeding he faces for case of illegal wiretapping during his term (2009-2014).
The former president, who claims to be politically persecuted by the current Panamanian government, faces a sentence of up to 21 years in prison, according to an indictment filed in October 2015 by prosecutor Harry Díaz.