Human Rights Watch/Americas applauded theagreement reached between the government of Panama and the daily newspaper La Prensa, whereby journalist Gustavo Gorriti can continue to work in a senior position at the newspaper instead of being deported to his native Peru, as a victory for freedom of expression in the hemisphere.

"President Ernesto Pérez Balladares took an important step in granting Gorriti a new work permit today," stated Jos‚ Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the non-governmental organization. "He has demonstrated the flexibility necessary to protect press freedom, a central pillar of democratic society." In August, the government announced its intention to deny Gorriti a new work permit and to deport him from the country. Gorriti heads an investigative unit at La Prensawhich has exposed serious cases of corruption.

Human Rights Watch/Americas and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) represented Gorriti in litigation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS over the government's announced plans to deport the award-winning journalist. In a hearing held at the commission headquarters in Washington this morning, the government and the human rights groups reached a friendly settlement of the case. In addition to granting Gorriti a work permit and promising to adjust his immigration status, the government agreed to seek derogation of a 1978 law ("Ley Mordaza") limiting the participation of foreign journalists in senior positions in the Panamanian media. The government also agreed to keep the commission informed on the progress in derogating the law.