Journalists aren’t supposed to become the news themselves, but that’s exactly what happened.

Okke Ornstein in the el Renacer prison in Panama. Photo: Gilles Frenken

Okke Ornstein was detained and arrested upon arriving at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. He faced a 20-month sentence for libel and slander pertaining to articles he posted on his Bananama Republic blog about the dubious business activities of a Canadian citizen in Panama.

It wasn’t the first time that Ornstein faced threats in Panama for his reporting. In 2003, the free press organization IFEX expressed concerns about threats against him and another journalist for exposing fraud. His work continues to draw smear campaigns by shady types who don’t want the journalism spotlight shining on their nefarious activities.

Organizations that called for Ornstein’s release: Transparency International, the International Federation of Journalists, NVJ (Dutch Association of Journalists), the Committee to Protect Journalists, La Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, Fahmy Foundation, Reporters Without Borders.

News coverage — some of it — of Ornstein’s prosecution, detention, and subsequent release:


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