Paraguay | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Paraguay

Paraguay

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

60

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

18

Although disappeared journalist Enrique Galeano was found alive after 17 months, dangerous conditions for the media continued in 2007, as numerous other journalists received death threats and one journalist was murdered. Although the constitution supports basic press rights, legal loopholes facilitate defamation and libel cases against the media. The continuation of such cases, which are often brought by public officials, not only endangers the financial sustainability of the press, but also discourages journalists from practicing critical and investigative reporting. In November, President Nicanor Duarte Frutos announced his desire for a Press Law that would regulate the content and ownership of media outlets as well as require all journalists to register in order to practice journalism.

In addition to legal obstacles, three problems continue to undermine the emergence of an independent press: the ambiguous commitment of national and local governments to press freedom, the intertwined relations between the Colorado Party and media ownership, and the persistent threat of criminal enterprises. Journalists who denounce political corruption and the linkages between political power and illegal business typically suffer the brunt of the antipress violence, particularly in the interior and border towns, where smuggling and drug trafficking are widespread. As in previous years, journalists in 2007 suffered a string of verbal and physical attacks. Radio journalist Tito Alberto Palma was killed by unidentified assailants in the city of Mayor Otano on the Argentinian border on August 22. A Chilean national who had lived in Paraguay since 1991, Palma had received threats over his exposés of corruption in the local government, including ties with drug traffickers and other criminal interests. Reporter Javier Nunez of the daily Ultima Hora and Canal 9 in Coronel Oviedo also received death threats; it is suspected that they were linked to his denunciation of a criminal network of car thieves. While the reappearance in Sao Paulo, Brazil, of Paraguayan radio journalist Enrique Galeano, who vanished in February 2006, was welcome, the lack of judicial investigation into his case and several past cases of antipress violence and killings remain troubling. Galeano had disappeared after receiving several death threats for his denunciations of drug traffickers and their links to local Colorado Party politicians.

Paraguay’s media system is characterized by lively debates and partisanship. Politicians and newspapers usually trade barbs, which at times can be counterproductive for press freedom, particularly when they come from powerful government officials. In a country where public funds are crucial for press economies, hostile comments against news outlets perpetuate a climate of intimidation and self-censorship. Press freedom groups were concerned about President Duarte Frutos’s criticisms of the anti-Colorado press amid the campaign leading up to the 2008 national elections. In November, Duarte Frutos stated that the press was more of an enemy than the political opposition. Unchecked political influence also undermines a free press. The influence of a powerful senator of the ruling Colorado Party was suspected in the termination of a radio program in Paraguari. The program had been critical of local politicians and their suspected links to organized crime.

Paraguay has a diverse media system, with a number of private broadcasting stations and three independent daily newspapers. But the dominance of the Colorado Party elite, which has been in power for six decades, and a hostile political environment toward assertive journalism prevent the media from offering a multitude of viewpoints. The authority of the Colorado Party over broadcasting policies and the lack of transparency surrounding the arbitrary allocation of state advertising also remain serious obstacles for many media outlets. The Paraguayan Union of Journalists (SPP) estimates that about 80 percent of radio stations are controlled by members of the Colorado Party. The lack of resolution on the legal status of community radio stations, which are often targets of intimidation by political officials and unidentified groups, further compromises press freedom and media diversity. The SPP remains concerned about working conditions for reporters, including low wages and lack of benefits. No cases of government restrictions of the internet were reported in 2007, in a country where just under 4 percent of the population had regular access.