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)
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President Horacio Cartes signed Paraguay’s first freedom of information law in 2014, though it was not set to take effect until 2015. Three journalists were murdered in 2014. Impunity for attacks against journalists is common.
The constitution and other laws guarantee freedom of the press, and the government generally respects this right. Defamation is a criminal offense punishable by fines or imprisonment. Defamation cases brought against journalists by public officials are not uncommon, though such cases have declined in recent years.
In September 2014, President Cartes signed into law Paraguay’s first access to information law, set to take effect in 2015. The Paraguayan constitution guarantees that “public sources of information are free for all,” but previously no legal clarification or statutory law defined this right. The new Access to Public Information and Transparency Law guarantees “free citizen access to public information and governmental transparency” and obliges state institutions and functionaries to disclose information requested by citizens in regards to salaries, official travel, contracts, and any information not designated as secret. The government also announced in June 2014 the launch of an online database that will enable open access to public information. The final version of the bill did not include a controversial provision, drafted by the Senate, limiting the types of information that could be disclosed under the law.
Congress ratified the Telecommunications Law in 2011, overriding then president Fernando Lugo’s 2010 veto. The law limits community radio stations’ broadcasting power to 50 watts and prohibits them from carrying advertising. It also recognizes the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) as an independent entity empowered to grant or deny licenses but fails to guarantee the agency’s autonomy. Freedom of expression advocacy entities, such as the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters and the Organization of American States’ Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, have argued that the law violates international standards for freedom of expression.
The “tri-border” area where Paraguay meets Brazil and Argentina has been a particularly perilous region for reporters. Violence, threats of violence and intimidation from organized crime groups or politicians have become the norm, particularly for journalists who investigate drug trafficking and government corruption in the area. Impunity for such offenses is common. Since 1991, 14 journalists have been murdered in the country. Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz Garay, a journalist at Radio Amambay who frequently reported on drug trafficking, was killed in May in Pedro Juan Caballero. A Brazilian citizen was arrested in June in possible connection to the murder. Edgar Pantaleón Fernández Fleitas, a lawyer and journalist who hosted a local radio program, was shot and killed at his home in the central city of Concepción in June. Fernández was a vocal critic of Concepción’s judiciary, having accused numerous members of involvement with drug trafficking, and had faced threats in the past in connection with his radio show. Local prosecutors announced one arrest in June, but no further developments in that case appear to have been reported. The most high-profile murder occurred in October, when Pablo Medina Velázquez, a correspondent for the prominent daily ABC Color, was shot and killed in Canindeyú department, near the tri-border region, while on assignment. Medina frequently covered drug trafficking and had received multiple threats in relation to his work, though he was reportedly on an unrelated assignment at the time of his murder. One of Medina’s assistants, Antonia Almada, was also killed in the attack. Outcry within Paraguay and by rights groups abroad over the murder of Medina and Almada placed enormous pressure on the government to find and prosecute the assailants. Four suspects were detained soon after the attack, but no further developments have emerged regarding those detentions. Authorities were also working to extradite three more suspects in connection with the murders: Vilmar Acosta, the mayor of Ypehu, a town in Canindeyú, and two accomplices, who are all believed to have fled to Brazil. The Committee to Protect Journalists has placed Paraguay among the 20 most deadly countries for journalists.
There were other instances of limitations and intimidation of the press reported in 2014. In September, journalists with ABC Color reported receiving threats after criticizing aspects of a political rally in the southern city of Ayolas, and in January, journalist Paulo Lopez of the E’a newspaper was arrested while reporting on a protest in Asunción against an increase in transportation fees. He claimed he was detained illegally and tortured by police, and filed a complaint with Paraguay’s human rights office. Several months later he was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. The Journalist’s Union of Paraguay claimed that the charges against Lopez were designed to intimidate him into dropping his complaint.
The government owns and operates Radio Nacional and Paraguay TV HD; both launched in 2011 following a campaign pledge by former president Fernando Lugo to create public-service media. Paraguay TV HD, formerly known as TV Pública, is the first public-service television station of its kind in Paraguay. As TV Pública, it had developed a generally independent and pluralistic editorial line in its first year of operation. Although its director resigned and many of its journalists were dismissed following Lugo’s ouster in 2012, politically motivated dismissals had abated by 2014. In 2013, TV Pública became Paraguay TV HD as part of a rebranding campaign.
Radio remains an essential news medium in Paraguay. Most of the radio spectrum is controlled by either commercial or state-owned stations, despite attempts by community stations to increase their presence. Although some progress has been made, especially through the creation of indigenous community radio stations in the western Chaco region, much remains to be done to diversify the airwaves. In 2013, a fifth indigenous radio station, Voces Nativas 90.9 FM, was inaugurated in the community of Cayin ô Clim. However, later that year rural community radio stations claimed that large outlets were attempting to shut them down by accusing them of sympathizing with a rural insurgent group. Approximately 43 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2014, and there were no reports of government restrictions on access.
Paraguay does not place legal limits on media concentration. Three privately owned media groups have significant market share: Editorial Azeta S.A., which publishes ABC Color; Grupo Vierci, whose holdings include the newspaper Última Hora, television’s Telefuturo (Canal 4), and TV and Radio Monumental; and the Holding de Radio company, which owns the popular Radio Ñandutí, among others. According to a 2012 report by Transparency International, these outlets tend to set the national media agenda. Remigio Ángel González, a Mexican media mogul whose holdings across Latin America have sparked concerns among press freedom advocates about media concentration, controls the Paraguayan television station SNT.