Panama authorities arrested Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein upon his arrival at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport on November 15, 2016. Ornstein, who often covers corruption and fraud cases, is facing a 20-month sentence for criminal libel and slander after writing about the fraudulent business practices of Monte Friesner, a Canadian citizen living in Panama. Friesner was convicted in the United States for offences similar to those Ornstein wrote about on his blog.
According to Ornstein’s lawyer, Channa Samkalden, Ornstein did not get due process or proper legal aid during the criminal proceedings in Panama.
The Dutch Journalists Association (NVJ), backed by the International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ), is calling for Ornstein’s release, saying that the claims are baseless.
IFJ President, Philippe Leruth states, “Journalists should be able to investigate freely and to inform civil society about all kind of crimes, including fraud and corruption, so that these criminals face the full force of the law. It should be them being detained and not the messenger being punished."
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Okke Interviewed in Prison During an Official Embassy Visit on December 8th, 2016