Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Paraguay remains one of the most troubled democracies in Latin America, with widespread corruption and a political system that has been dominated by the Colorado Party for the last seven decades. Criminal organizations frequently attack the press, often with the complicity of state authorities. This unfavorable context has contributed to further deterioration in the environment for press freedom in 2006. Article 26, Section 1 of the constitution provides a general guarantee for freedom of expression and of the media, but other articles are contradictory or vague and allow for loopholes in the interpretation of freedom of expression. Repressive libel and defamation laws severely restrict criticism of public authorities. The application of such laws was irregular throughout the year, with judges often demonstrating a bias toward the plaintiffs regardless of the case.
The Union of Paraguayan Journalists (SPP) concluded in a recent report that attacks on freedom of expression in 2006 frequently originated from inside the state and from the government’s inaction toward criminal groups. The disappearance of journalist Enrique Galeano in February illustrates the difficult situation for the country’s news organizations. Galeano disappeared after receiving several death threats for his denunciations of drug traffickers and their links to local Colorado Party politicians. Although President Nicanor Duarte Frutos promised a thorough investigation of Galeano’s disappearance, the Ministry of the Interior did not question the police’s decision to close the case after arguing that Galeano had disappeared on his own, most probably running away from the country. Several other journalists were victims of violent acts throughout the year, including Alberto Nunez, correspondent for the private dailies La Nacion and Cronica, who was kidnapped and beaten in the city of Capiibary by a group of lumber traffickers. In December, Colorado mayoral candidate and journalist Julio Benitez Ruiz Diaz was killed in his home; the investigation remained unresolved at the end of 2006. Community radio stations Manantial FM and Temonde FM were shut down while awaiting a ruling on their broadcasting frequency, and a local newspaper, El Espectador Luqueno, had its equipment destroyed by order of the mayor on the pretext of a land dispute.
Paraguay has a diverse media system, with a number of private broadcasting stations and independent newspapers. But the dominance of the Colorado Party elite and a hostile political environment for assertive journalism have prevented the media from offering a diversity of viewpoints. The manipulation of government advertising to ensure political quiescence continues, especially in the country’s interior. The SPP estimates that about 80 percent of radio stations are controlled by members of the Colorado Party. The union also reports that the growing trend of hiring journalists on the basis of informal labor contracts has eliminated basic social rights—including social security, minimum wages, and paid vacations—and has affected the quality of information. There were no reported restrictions on the internet imposed by the government, though less than 4 percent of the population had regular access to this medium during the year.