Freedom of Expression





1.      In January 2001, the journalist Salvador Medina Velázquez was killed in the town of Capiibary, San Pedro department.  According to the information received, threats had previously been made against Medina Velázquez, and the motive behind the murder was the corruption allegations he had made over the local Ñemity community radio station. Medina had published several articles denouncing the existence of a local mafia and, in his investigations, he had identified a gang of suspected smugglers with ties to the National Republican Association, better known as the Partido Colorado.  On October 16, 2001, Milcíades Mayling was sentenced to a 25-year prison term for carrying out the assassination, although the individuals responsible for planning it remain unknown. However, according to reports, after that conviction Medina’s family began to receive threats.  One of Salvador Medina’s brothers was abducted for the space of a few hours and his other brother, Pablo, a correspondent for the daily ABC Color in Curuguaty and the main instigator of the trial, received death threats.[1]



Threats and Attacks


2.      In May 2001, Séver Del Puerto, a journalist who covers legal affairs for Radio Cáritas, received death threats on account of his investigation into corruption involving politicians with ties to the government and representatives of the judiciary. According to the reports received, Del Puerto took refuge on the premises of Canal 9, claiming to have documentary and audiovisual proof of the crimes he was investigating.  He also made claims to the press and presented the public prosecution service with evidence from his investigation.  At the same time, the journalists Roberto Augsten of Ultima Hora and Héctor Riveros of Radio 1o de Marzo were also harassed for spreading information related to his investigations.  Augsten reported that his personal computer was stolen and Riveros, who also knew about the investigation, was attacked in his home.[2]


3.      On August 15, 2001, the journalist Aldo Eustacio Lezcano, the correspondent for ABC Color in Paraguarí, received a death threat from a local government official after he published press articles criticizing that official’s performance at his job.[3]


Judicial Actions


4.      On September 25-26, 2001, journalist Telmo Ibañez, the correspondent of the daily ABC Color in Concepción, received several threatening telephone calls and reported that a car with tinted windows and no license plate was watching the office where he worked.  The journalist reported the incident to the local police.  These threats were made a few days after the journalist was ordered to pay a fine for aggravated libel after he had published an article involving a number of municipal councilors in irregularities that were committed by the mayor of Concepción, Genaro Domínguez, and noted by the Comptrollership of the Nation.[4] In October 2001, the Union of Journalists of Paraguay reported that the Supreme Court of Justice had announced that it was intervening in the legal proceedings brought against the journalist in order to hear the merits of his conviction.




5.      During 2001, the Rapporteur received information regarding the situation prevailing among Paraguay’s community radio stations.  The country has more than 170 community broadcasters, which, over recent years, have been pursuing the formalities necessary to straighten out their legal status.  Given the legal uncertainty under which these stations operate, the Network of Community Radio Stations of Paraguay filed a constitutional challenge with the Supreme Court of Justice against the regulations applicable to community broadcasters and the way in which frequencies are allocated in the sector.[5] The Rapporteur underscores the importance of progressive policies intended to provide all sectors of society with a forum for expression on a nondiscriminatory basis, thus guaranteeing the availability of multiple sources of information and encouraging broad freedom of expression and information.


Positive Actions


6.      On September 13, 2001, the Paraguayan Senate repealed Law 1728 on Administrative Transparency and Free Access to Information, which had been heavily criticized for limiting full enjoyment of free expression.  The executive branch of government concurred with the legislature’s decision.  The repeal arose from criticisms voiced by both the Paraguayan press and a number of international organizations active on free speech issues.  The executive promulgated the law in July 2001 in order to promote transparency within the government and to ensure access to information.  However, the legislation gave rise to concern in certain quarters since several of its articles imposed restrictions on the media’s right of access to information held in official documents, thus hindering government transparency.  The circumstances under which the authorities could reject requests were also too broad.[6] The Rapporteur believes that repealing this legislation was a positive action of the part of the Paraguayan State, and he urges Paraguay to continue working to draft laws that guarantee full enjoyment of free expression.


7.      In late August 2001, civil society organizations belonging to the Alliance for the Defense of Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information[7] sent the Chamber of Deputies a new draft bill for a Law on Free Access to Public Information.  The Rapporteur hopes that the Paraguayan State enacts an information access law that is in accordance with international standards governing freedom of expression.

[1] This information was provided by the Union of Journalists of Paraguay, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), and Reporters without Borders (RSF), which are organizations that defend free expression.

[2] This information was provided by Reporters without Borders (RSF), an organization that defends free expression.

[3] This information was provided by the Union of Journalists of Paraguay.

[4] This information was provided by Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Union of Journalists of Paraguay, which are organizations that defend free expression.

[5] Network of Community Radio Stations, December 17, 2001.

[6] The law prevented public scrutiny of any ongoing investigation into actions by a public official or into government procurement that could give rise to speculation. Information furnished by the Committee to Protect Journalists, July 30, 2001.

[7] The Alliance for the Defense of Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information was created by the Union of Journalists of Paraguay and involves the Paraguay Human Rights Coordination Office, the Association of Users and Consumers, the electricity sector trade union Sitrande, and the Comunica association of community radio stations.