My friend Eric Jackson is in the hot seat again. Eric is the publisher of the Panama News, an English speaking online newspaper about Panama. Eric has been publishing for many years and knows the ins and outs of Panama better than most anyone I know. Although I don't always agree with his personal views and editorials, I find him to be very honest and passionate about the subjects he writes about. He is an strong defender of Panama and its people and sometimes this can lead to problems. In order to be an effective reporter you have to live and work in Panama, but that can also make you an easy target for those who you report on and who know the idiosyncrasies of the Panama judicial system. As I have lamented on my blog on numerous occasions, corruption in the judicial system is the greatest threat to Panama's future. Now it may be the greatest threat to Eric's freedom.
Eric provided me with the following brief in order for me to try and help him by shinning some additional light on some darkness. In a world where justice is usually handed to those with the largest pocket book, Eric is at a tremendous disadvantage. The only weapon strong enough to fight against those who use money and contacts over truth and justice is to shine as bright a light on the matter as possible. Maybe you can help too with either financial assistance or contacts of your own.
Reporter faces trial on frivolous charges --- again
Eric Jackson, who publishes The Panama News, has an August 20 court date that might possibly net him two years in prison. Having twice before been charged under Panama's criminal defamation --- "calumnia e injuria" --- laws and prevailed before trial on both occasions, this time the prosecutors have adopted the privately brought complaint as their own.
The accuser is one Mark Boswell, a Colorado "patriot" movement radio personality of the 1990s who, after promoting a conspiracy theory and spending time in prison, adopted the alias Rex Freeman and became an offshore investment guru to an Internet casino operator in Costa Rica. With Costa Rican authorities investigating him for financial crimes, he came to Panama, where he offers unlicensed investment funds and banking services over the Internet in open violation of Panamanian law.
Panama's criminal defamation laws, "calumnia" and "injuria," are actually two laws, the former about publishing false and defamatory allegations of fact, the latter about injuring a reputation, even by publishing the truth. A legacy of the Civil Code legal system, similar laws in other jurisdictions that use that form of justice have been repealed, reformed or converted into civil lawsuits for damages. In Panama, politicians and aristocratic families have found that, even when the charges are preposterous, such laws can be used to control what is written about them. A number of foreigners have also discovered this tool.
So how does a convicted felon like Boswell get past our immigration, securities and banking authorities? One can only guess, but two possibilities stand out. First, Panama's authorities have often tolerated frauds directed at foreigners. Second, it is said that everything is for sale in Panama. Other explanations may also apply here.