Chronicles of Monte Friesner
April 12, 2016
GOVERNMENT OF PANAMA CENSORS NEWS ABOUT PANAMA PAPERS SCANDAL
Panama's Varela administration has severely cautioned the country's newspapers about reporting any further negative details of the so-called Panama Papers documents. Editors of the major print media have passed that warning along to their rank-and-file journalists; all stories to be published, must first be approved by the senior editor, and the newspaper's attorneys, before they will be allowed.
The net effect of this virtual censorship is that only stories favorable to the law firm of Mossack and Fonseca, the focus of the Panama Papers scandal, will be printed. We have seen a very articles, but they all focus on the Government's reputed investigation of the outside "hack" Mossack servers. In truth and fact, the documents were taken, in an inside job, by multiple individuals.
The Mossack & Fonseca law firm , though it grossed $42m in a recent year, according to reliable reports, paid many of its staff minimum wage, periodically had major staff layoffs. Some observers believe that these policies were to encourage a periodic turnover in support staff, so that no individual learned too much about the firm's many clients. The same reason is given for the firm's penchant for engaging inexperienced compliance officers, and changing them every two years or so.
Press censorship, in such a vital topic as the Panama Papers case, harms not only the global business community, but also could result in critical, inside information being withheld from the public at large. Freedom of the Press has been under attack in the Caribbean of late, generally by governments eager to avoid the release of damaging information, often about corruption.
Whether this is the beginning of widespread news management in Panama, by the government, is not known, but due to the controversy spawned by the release of the Panama Papers, it is critical that locally-obtained information and news be freely distributed in the Panama City media, for the protection of the financial institutions in the Western Hemisphere, investors, and compliance officers charged with risk management.