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Monday, June 24 2019 @ 02:08 PM UTC

Panamanian Journalist Carlos Núñez Arrested for Libel

Crime & Punishment By DON WINNER for - The Panamanian National Police arrested 70 year old Panamanian journalist Carlos Núñez at an internet cafe near his home in Panama City on Saturday morning, 26 June 2010. As part of a random screening of patrons in the Internet cafe, the police officers asked everyone for their identification as they searched for people who are in the country illegally. Internet cafes of this type are often used by foreigners as a relatively inexpensive way to communicate with friends and family back home, and therefore they provide a ripe hunting grounds for the police. When the police officers ran Carlos Núñez's identification (cedula) number through their database using the "Pele Police" handheld communications device, it told them he was wanted by the Judicial System. It turns out he had been convicted in a criminal trial by the Fourteenth Criminal Court for Libel, the result of an story he wrote in 1998 for a tabloid called La Crónica (which no longer exists) accusing a businessman from Bocas del Toro of having caused some kind of environmental damage. The arrest was a complete surprise for Carlos Núñez because he was tried and convicted in absentia - neither he nor his lawyer was ever notified of the proceedings, the hearing, or the sentence. Núñez has been held in the police station in El Chorrillo since Saturday morning, and today he was to be taken to appear before the judge who convicted him (for the first time.) The Colegio Nacional de Periodistas de Panamá (CONAPE) (National Association of Journalists of Panama) has issued a statement condemning the arrest and calling for the immediate release of Carlos Núñez.

Auto Pilot: I have no idea what the facts are regarding the conviction of Carlos Núñez by the Fourteenth Criminal Court and the case from 1998 and Bocas del Toro. The conviction was handed down in September 2009 and since Carlos Núñez was not in custody his name and identification (cedula) number appeared in the "Pele Police" system. The police officers simply did their jobs and arrested him. It seems to me Carlos Núñez's lawyers should now appeal the conviction and he should immediately be released, pending the appeal. I suspect that is exactly what the judge will decide in the hearing this afternoon. However, this arrest is an example of how the government is working to improve the security of the country - on auto pilot. Forget for a moment that this case deals with a 70 year old journalist, a story he wrote twelve years ago, and his conviction in absentia. The "system" found this guy like a needle in a haystack and hauled him in. Want more "security?" This is what you get. The system doesn't care what he was convicted for, the facts of the case, how old the guy is, the fact that he's a journalist, or what have you. It only cares that the system says "arrest that dude" so that's exactly what the police officers did in this case. When it's all said and done, I doubt this conviction will stand, and I expect that Carlos Núñez will be released. Let's see how it plays out over time. (And as a footnote, I'm certain Ricardo Martinelli has no clue about any of this ... it's 100% judicial system stuff.)

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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