Freedom of the Press
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Journalists have already begun to use a 2015 access to information law to uncover government corruption. The “triborder” region where Paraguay meets Brazil and Argentina, as well as Paraguay’s Brazilian border, remain dangerous places for journalists to operate. Concentration of media ownership has increased in recent years, including among owners connected to President Horacio Cartes.
- The access to information law that took effect in September 2015 facilitated journalistic investigations into several corruption scandals, including widespread misuse of funds at the National University of Asunción.
- In March, the accused mastermind of the 2014 killing of a reporter that shook the Paraguayan press was arrested in Brazil, and was later extradited to Paraguay.
- Gerardo Servián, a Paraguayan radio journalist based in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, in March was gunned down just across the border in Brazil.
Legal Environment: 15 / 30 (↑1)
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 filed against journalists by public officials are not uncommon, though such cases have declined in recent years.
In September 2015, President Cartes signed regulatory decrees enacting the access to information law approved in 2014. The Paraguayan constitution guarantees that “public sources of information are free to all,” but previously no statutory law had defined this right. Another law passed in 2014 established the state’s obligation to provide information on salaries and other payments to and spending by all public servants. These new laws made possible a major series of reports by investigative journalists in 2015 on corruption networks in state institutions. One report led to the impeachment and resignation in August of Comptroller Óscar Rubén Velázquez. Another exposed a corruption network at the National University of Asunción, prompting a large-scale student revolt and the resignation and prosecution of the chancellor and other senior university officials.
The Paraguayan Congress ratified the Telecommunications Act 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 authorized to grant or deny licenses, but does not guarantee the autonomy of the agency. 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.
Political Environment: 25 / 40
The border area between Paraguay and Brazil, and the “triborder” area where Paraguay meets Brazil and Argentina remain particularly dangerous regions for reporters. Violence, threats, and intimidation by organized crime groups or politicians are common, especially for journalists who investigate drug trafficking and government corruption in the area. Since 1991, 17 journalists have been murdered in the country, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has placed Paraguay among the 20 deadliest countries for journalists. After the 2014 murder of ABC Color newspaper correspondent Pablo Medina Velázquez by assassins linked to a politician accused of drug trafficking, journalists working in the border region have required police escorts. Although impunity has been the norm for most violence against reporters, Vilmar Acosta Marques, the former mayor of the border town of Ypejhú and the alleged mastermind of Medina’s murder, was arrested in Brazil in March 2015 and extradited to Paraguay in November. There was one murder of a Paraguayan journalist in 2015: in March, Gerardo Servián, a radio journalist based in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, was gunned down just across the border in Brazil. At year’s end the case remained under investigation.
Economic Environment: 18 / 30
Public television channel Paraguay TV HD was launched in 2011 following a campaign pledge by former president Fernando Lugo to create public service media. Initially known as TV Pública, it was the first public service television station of its kind in Paraguay, and developed a comprehensive, independent, and pluralistic editorial line in its first year of operation. Although its director resigned and many of its journalists were dismissed after Lugo’s ouster in 2012, politically motivated layoffs abated by 2014. In 2015, observers leveled strong criticism of the political use of state media by President Cartes and the ruling Colorado Party. In February, Paraguay TV HD broadcast live an event featuring Pedro Alliana, a candidate in internal Colorado Party elections, in which President Cartes was present. The publicity for this strictly political event prompted a congressional motion of censure against communications minister Fabricio Caligaris in March.
Radio remains an essential news medium in Paraguay. The government owns and operates Radio Nacional in Asunción, and the cities of Pilar and San Pedro also each have a state-run station. 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. During 2015, advocates reported several cases of persecution and censorship by the government of community radio stations, including confiscation of equipment. Approximately 44 percent of the population has internet access, and there were no reports of government restrictions on the medium.
Paraguay does not place legal limits on media concentration. Four privately owned media groups have significant market share. Editorial Azeta S.A., which publishes the newspaper ABC Color, acquired the ABC Cardinal radio station in 2015. Grupo Vierci, whose holdings include the newspaper Última Hora, and the television channels Telefuturo and La Tele, also manages another channel, Red Guaraní, and owns radio stations Radio Monumental and Radio Urbana along with TeVeo and other publications. Grupo Cartes, linked to President Cartes, acquired several outlets in 2015, including the newspapers La Nación, Popular, and Crónica; radio stations Radio AM 970 and Radio Montecarlo; the news website HOY; and several other music stations and content-creation businesses. The fourth significant group is headed by Mexican tycoon Remigio Angel González, and features four broadcast television channels: SNT and Paravisión in Asunción, PTV in the city of Presidente Franco, and Sur, in the city of Encarnación.