Freedom of Expression


Judicial action


186.  On 17 December 2002, Judge José Waldir Servín issued his judgment in a judicial case initiated in 1997 against journalist Benjamín Fernández Bogado, who was found guilty of defamation and sentenced to a fine of slightly more than a US$1,200 and the payment of US$1,400 in damages to the plaintiff in the case.[i] The case dates back to 6 December 1996, when Fernández Bogado was the news director for Canal 9.  During a broadcast of the news program 24 horas, comments were made linking Adalberto Fox, an attorney and current candidate for the Senate, with the Mafia.  Months before, Fox had been discharged from his judgeship for irregularities in the conduct of his office.[ii]




187.  On Wednesday, 3 July 2002, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), accompanied by a police unit, proceeded to close and impound the equipment of community radio station Ñemity FM de Capiivary, in the department of San Pedro, under a judicial warrant issued on 30 November 1999.  The community radio station Ñemity FM belongs to the organization Ñemity Comunicaciones.  It is a member of the Paraguayan Radio Broadcast Association (COMUNICA) and the World Community Radio Association (AMARC) and has been operating in the Capiivary community for more than four years.


188.  The station was actively involved in assisting and broadcasting information about campesino organizations during recent demonstrations in the department of San Pedro.  The station provided assistance to these sectors and conducted a solidarity campaign that raised a significant amount of funds for the campesinos  in Santa Rasa del Aguaray.   The order to execute a judicial warrant issued more than two years before suggests that these actions were in the nature of a reprisal, in violation of the right to freedom of expression, for the role played by the station in giving service and a voice to its community.


189.  According to the information provided by AMARC, this conduct was in breach of "four agreements (signed on 26 October 1999; 30 November 1999; 24 July 2000; and 26 March 2001) between COMUNICA and the national government that community radio stations would not be closed until final measures had been taken to regularize them.  The Telecommunications Act 642/95 and articles 27, 30, and 45 of the National Constitution, recognize the legality of Community Radio Stations."[iii]


190.  On 9 July 2002, according to the information provided, CONATEL and the aforementioned radio stations reached an agreement.  The delegation, composed of representatives of Radio Ñemity, COMUNICA and Red de Radios Populares, and delegates of the Ombudsman and Amnesty International (Paraguay), among others, signed an agreement with Mr. Víctor Alcides Bogado of CONATEL providing for: return of the equipment belonging to Radio Ñemity de Capiibary; the establishment of an intersectoral commission to regulate the operation of community radio stations in Paraguay; and the issuance of a resolution providing that no news steps should be taken until CONATEL had officially given effect to the modifications to the Regulations for Small and Medium Coverage Radio Broadcasting, clarifying the situation of stations truly fulfilling the role of community radio.[iv]


191.  On 25 September 2002, CONATEL issued resolutions recognizing the right of 107 community broadcasters throughout the country to continue broadcasting, directly awarding to them the frequencies for this purpose.  Resolution 2002 provides that "the measure ordering no news steps in respect of community radio stations in operation, included on the attached list presented by the associations representing them, provided that they remain in accordance with applicable regulations, until the modifications to the Regulations for Small and Medium Coverage Radio Broadcasters are implemented."[v]


Follow-up on the assassination of journalist Salvador Medina


192.  On 16 October 2001, Milciades Mayling was sentenced by a lower court ruling to 25 years in prison, the maximum penalty allowed under the Penal Code.  Mayling had been found guilty as as the perpetrator of the homicide of Salvador Medina, then Chairman of the Board of Ñemity, a people's radio station in the town of Capi'ibary, in the department of San Pedro.  On 27 March 2002, the VI Criminal Chamber of the Alto Paraná y Canindeyú judicial district, upheld the ruling and Mayling's 25-year prison sentence was considered final.


Positive developments


193.  On 11 December 2002, the Supreme Court of Justice of Paraguay absolved and pardoned Ricardo Canese, who had been convicted of defamation and libel.  It should be recalled by way of background in this case that on 26 August 1992, as part of the political debate that took place while he was campaigning as a candidate for President of the Republic, Ricardo Canese questioned the qualifications and integrity of Mr. Juan Carlos Wasmosy, who was also a candidate for president.  The remarks in question described “Wasmosy as lending his name for use by Stroessner in Itaipú” through the commercial firm CONEMPA.  These statements, made in the context of an election campaign, were published in the newspapers ABC Color and Noticias – el Diario on 27 August 1992.


194.  In its decision, the Supreme Court of Justice stated that "according to the new legal order, no one can be convicted of a criminal offense because of statements of this nature on matters of public interest involving public officials or persons, which is the case of a candidate for the country's highest office, even though such statements may affect their honor or reputation."


[i]ABC Color, December 18, 2002.

[ii]Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), December 27, 2002.

[iii]Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias (AMARC), July 9, 2002.

[iv]Programa de Legislaciones y Derecho a la Comunicación Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias América Latina y el Caribe (AMARC-ALC), July 10, 11 and 16, 2002.

[v]Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias (AMARC), September 30, 2002.