Status change explanation: Panama's rating slipped from Free to Partly Free as a result of continued legal pressures on journalists and media outlets.
Panama has one of the highest levels of legal prosecution against the press in the Americas. Restrictive laws that were enacted during the regime of dictator General Manuel Antonio Noriega have yet to be repealed by three subsequent democratic governments. The law permits officials to jail without trial anyone who defames the government. In addition, legislation that will require journalists to be licensed is currently under consideration. The practice of self-censorship is on the rise as a result of the prosecution of journalists under restrictive gag laws. Nevertheless, media are abundant and diverse; a half dozen national daily newspapers and television stations and more than 100 radio stations offer an array of coverage and opinions. All media outlets are privately owned with the exception of one state-owned television station. However, there is a noticeable concentration of control of television outlets by associates and close relatives of former president Ernesto Perez Balladares.