Freedom of Expression

5 - Chapter IV - Evaluation of the Situation of Freedom of Expression in the Hemisphere (continued)

United States


1.                  On March 25, 2000, Errol Maitland, a journalist for the radio station WBAI and technical director of the program Democracy Now of Radio Pacifica, was attacked by New York City Police Officers while covering the funeral of Haitian-American Patrick Dorismond, who was shot by New York Police on March 16, 2000. At the time of the incident, Maitland was transmitting directly through his cellular phone and upon seeing the police force a woman to the ground, he drew closer and identified himself, in order to request a commentary on this incident. Maitland told CPJ that four police officers grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Maitland was detained for disobedience of an authority. According to information received, Maitland was suffering from breathing difficulties and was taken to the hospital, where he was kept handcuffed to the bed until March 27.


2.                  In October 2000, the United States Congress passed the Intelligence Authorization Act, which included provisions that would impose criminal sanctions on government officials for any unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The broad definition of what constitutes “classified” information would have made this law extremely damaging to the free flow of information about governmental activities, by discouraging government officials from speaking to the press for fear of possible sanctions. The Special Rapporteur expressed his concern about this measure to then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright in a letter of November 2, 2000. Former President  Bill Clinton later vetoed the legislation.   




3.                  On April 3, 2000, the editorial offices of Radio Vision 2000 received several telephone calls threatening the station’s installations. On that same day, the residence of Daly Valet, news director of Radio Vision 2000 and co-host of the program Vision 2000 a l’ecoute was shot at.[1] According to information received by the Office, the journalists on this program, Daly Valet and Donald Jean had to go into exile in Canada after receiving numerous threats because of their criticism of the government of Jean Bertrand Aristide and of the political party Famille Lavalas (FL).[2]


4.                  On April 3, 2000, the offices of Radio Unité, a community station in the city of Saint-Michel de L’Attalaye, was looted by unidentified persons.


5.                  On April 5, 2000, employees of the radio station Echo 2000 in Petit Goavem denounced that an armed group entered the station and threatened to burn it if the station would not stop its broadcasts.[3]


6.                  On May 3, 2000, the offices of the community radio station Voix des Paysans du Sud, in Cavaillon-Pliché, were looted.[4]


7.                  On September 5, 2000, Haiti’s National Public Television Channel was the target of a bomb that caused considerable damage.[5]


8.                  After the presidential elections on November 26, 2000, there was a considerable increase in the threats against media reporting doubts about the legitimacy of the presidential elections. According to the information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, several radio stations were threatened after commenting on the small number of participants in the presidential elections. The private radio station Radio Galaxie received numerous phone calls asking it to increase its estimates of the number of votes. Radio Galaxie suspended its transmissions while the elections were taking place and restarted its activities four days later. It was acknowledged that, after the presidential elections, about six media stations received threatening phone calls because of their criticism of the government and the political party of Aristide. [6] 


9.                  In January of 2001, radio Caraibes FM, radio Kiskeya and radio Rotation FM received threatening phone calls. According to the information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, on December 23 of 2000, radio Caraibes had to suspend its activities for three weeks after receiving daily phone calls from groups close to the FL party asking the radio station to cease its activities. The phone calls were received after a weekly political news program called Ranmase, during which members of an opposition group criticized the government and questioned the legitimacy of the November 26 elections.[7] Moreover, Carlos Sainristil, programming director of this radio station, informed that he and other journalists had received threatening phone calls before. Amos Duboirant, director of radio Rotation FM, in the town of Lascahobas in the center of Haití, declared, on December 28 of 2000, that his station received threatening phone calls and intimidation's after denouncing health problems in the city.[8]


10.              On January 9 of 2001, during a press conference, leaders of organizations close to the FL party of Aristide threatened the journalist Liliane Pierre-Haul, program director and co-owner of radio Kiskeya, and the editor of the newspaper Le Nouvelliste , Max Chauvet to death in public. According to the information received, these organizations have a list of 100 important people, including these two journalists, who were identified as opponents of the current government. Moreover, it was reported that after the press conference on January the 9th, unidentified persons threw a gas container in the yard of radio Kiskeya.[9]




11.              In March of 2000, the Mexican Migration Institute (IMM) denied a visa to reporter Helene Poux, an Austrian national employed by the magazine Suedwind. According to the information received, the IMM claimed that the decision was made on the grounds that the journalist had undertaken unauthorized activities during a previous visit to the country. On those occasions, the reporter covered activities of the International Civil Commission for Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH) in Chiapas state. The reporter’s work was in keeping with the visa she had been given to cover the CCIODH and do investigative reporting on the human rights situation in the area.[10]


12.              In June and July of 2000, journalist Freddy Secundino Sánchez of the weekly Epoca was victim of harassment and intimidation.  On July 15, he reported to the Mexican Commission for Defense and Promotion of Human Rights that he was physically attacked by two persons posing as judicial police. They held him captive in a taxi for more than two hours before they released him.  Days later, his life was threatened in a telephone call. The Complaint Program of the Commission asked the Rapporteur to assist in ensuring respect for the journalist’s physical and emotional integrity.[11] The Commission requested information from the Mexican government, which, in its reply on August 3, stated that the journalist was under the protection of the authorities. 


13.              On June 22, 2000, journalist Lilly Téllez of Aztec Television and three other people were victims of an attack when unidentified persons fired on the car in which they were traveling. The journalist escaped unharmed from the attack, which occurred in Mexico City, but the driver and two of her bodyguards were wounded. The attack was believed to have been motivated by her investigative reporting.[12]


14.              On August 15, 2000, journalist Ricardo Alemán, an employee of the daily El Universal of Mexico City and the Radio 13 broadcast station, was the victim of an attack when unknown individuals fired on his office from a nearby building. The bullets caused physical damage to the office. The attack was believed to be in reprisal for his reporting.[13]


15.              On September 19, 2000, journalist Antonio Pinedo Cornejo, editor of the magazine Seminario of Ciudad Juárez, was arrested on charges of libel. The journalist was arrested after the commissioner of public security, Javier Benavídez González, had filed a complaint against him because of the content of an article published in the weekly. Journalist Luis Villanagra was also accused of the same crime. Days later, the former police chief withdrew the criminal libel complaint against the journalists.[14]




16.              The Special Rapporteur expresses his concern about the information received by the office that several social communicators could have been directly affected by the climate of political instability in this country during the attempted coup d' etát of May 18, 2000 against the constitutional and democratic stability of Paraguay and other later attacks. Among the information received, the following is highlighted[15]:


17.              On May 18, 2000, six armed men dressed as military members entered the installations of Radio Cardinal and the television studios of Canal 13 by force.  They left after being reprimanded by the journalists. Two of the perpetrators were detained. Also, approximately six armed men dressed as military members entered the installations of Radio 9.70 AM by force and ordered the station, under threats, to broadcast revolutionary propaganda. 


18.              On May 19, 2000, unknown persons entered the station Ybyturuzú,  Villarica, and destroyed its transmission equipment. The same day, Miguel Fernández and Adriana Fernández, the owners of Radio Asunción, were detained by members of the security forces, who destroyed all the transmission equipment. Both social communicators were accused of defending the Ex-General Lino Oviedo.


19.              On May 20, 2000, President González Machi signed a decree ordering the arrest of Hugo Ruiz Olazar, a reporter of the daily ABC Color and correspondent of Agence France Presse and the Argentine daily Clarín, on charges of participating in an attempted coup in May of 2000. Violating articles of the Constitution and contemporary social standards. The journalist remained in hiding for several days in the editorial offices of ABC Color for his physical safety. According to the information received, the accusations against the journalist were considered as an attempt to end his journalistic labor in the various media which he was working. At a news conference, Government minister Walter Bower stated that the journalist was accused of violating the Constitution and contemporary social standards, and that the charges against Ruiz Olazar included not only a attempted coup but also "a series of acts and activities."[16]


20.              In August of 2000, amidst a climate of post-electoral uncertainty regarding the outcome of the elections for the vice presidency of Paraguay, various threats were directed at the media and journalists:


21.              On August 13, 2000, Radio Primero de Marzo, in Asunción, received several threatening phone calls about a possible attack. On August 15th of 2000, Radio Ñiandutí, in Asunción, was attacked by groups linked to the Partido Colorado because they did not agree with the electoral results that the radio station was transmitting. Also, journalists that belong to the Tribunal Superior de Justicia Electoral (Superior Electoral Tribunal) were verbally attacked by Juan Carlos Galaverna, a senator of Partido Colorado, while he was interviewed on the counting of the votes.


22.              On August 17, 2000, Elizabeth Palma, a reporter for Channel 9, was struck by the car of Daniel Fretes Ventre, former national comptroller, when she tried to film him.   


23.              On August 19, 2000, the home of journalist Marlene Franco, of the newspaper Diario Noticias, was struck by five bullets after she received telephone death threats. On August 18 and 20, 2000, the newspaper's office in Asunción received several anonymous bomb threats by telephone. [17]


24.              On August 21, 2000, César Olmedo, a photojournalist for the daily La Nación, was attacked and his photographic camera destroyed for a policeman that was trying to deactivate a bomb.


25.              On August 25, 2000, Camilo Cantero, director of Radio Libertad in San Ignacio city, Misiones, and correspondent of the daily Ultima Hora, was detained because of charges against him for "false denunciation" and imprisoned for six days. This process started after the journalist denounced a judge because of questionable acts as a judge. The journalist’s attorneys sought substitute measures. As a consequence, on August 31, 2000, Judge Juan Carlos Paredes forbid the journalist to talk and write through the media about the judicial process against him. This restriction was imposed by Judge Paredes as a substitute measure for the imprisonment, of which the journalist had already fulfilled six days.[18]      


26.              On August 28, 2000, Aldo Zucolillo, director of Diario ABC Color, testified before a criminal court judge, who ordered him not to leave the country. This judicial process began when electoral prosecutors accused the paper of publishing "electoral propaganda" outside of the time period authorized by law. Diario ABC Color published two editorials in support to one of the vice-presidential candidates in the August 13th elections. The electoral prosecutors considered that these two editorials were "electoral propaganda." 


27.              On October 3, 2000, Omar Jara, correspondent for La Nación News, in San José de los Arroyos, 100 kilometers east of Asunción, declared that he was subjected to threats and was verbally attacked by two transit agents because he had accused these transit agents of accepting bribes from drivers in order to avoid receiving citations for moving violations.


28.              On October 5, 2000, the Court of Appeals confirmed a lower court judgment that ordered journalist Héctor Guerin, of Diario Local Vanguardia, to pay a fine of 285 jornales (US$1,650) because of an action initiated by the governor of Alto Paraná, Jotvino Urunuaga, for defamation, libel and slander. This lawsuit arose out of publications by the newspaper about apparent administrative irregularities in the government, based on reports from the Contraloría General de la República (Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic) and declarations of departmental authorities.


29.              According to information received, on December 19, 2000, Mauri Konig, correspondent of the Diario Brasileño, was tortured by three people presumably linked  to the police force, when he was doing investigative reporting at the San Alberto police station in connection with forced recruitment of Brazilian teens by Paraguayan police. [19]  


30.              April 26, 2000 marked the ninth anniversary of the assassination of journalist Santiago Leguizamón, editor of Radio Maburucuya. The Paraguayan Press Union and Reporters without Borders asked the Paraguayan government to pursue the police investigation of the case and punish those who ordered and carried out the homicide.[20]




31.              All of the events described below correspond to information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur during the year 2000, before Alberto Fujimori renounced the presidency and when a climate of intimidation and judicial persecution against independent journalism existed.




32.              In January of 2000 Angel Rojas Montero, a former cameraman for the suspended program Hildrebrandt en Enlace Global (Hildebrandt Around the Globe), was kidnapped for 30 minutes in the district of La Perla, in Callao province. During his detention, he received death threats from an unidentified individual who aimed a pistol at him and shouted that he would be killed because he was a “tattletale journalist.”[21]


33.              On March 1, 2000, Ana Maria Tejada Purizaca, a reporter for the daily La República, was kidnapped for half an hour and her notes were ransacked. According to the information received, the suspected responsible party for the aggression (which occurred in the city of Tacna) was Walter Chipoco Espinoza, who headed the election campaign of candidate Carmen Lozada de Gamboa.[22]


[1] RSF.

[2]Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

[3] Id.

[4]Reporters without Borders (RSF).

[5] Id.

[6] CPJ.

[7] Id.

[8] RSF.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, D.F., Mexico.

[12]Inter-American Press Association and Reporters without Borders

[13]Reporters without Borders.

[14]Inter-American Press Association.

[15] This information has been provided primarily by the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay, a member organization of IFEX and the Inter-American Press Association.

[16] Reporters without Borders.

[17] Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), (Paraguayan Press Union).

[18] Id.

[19]International Federation of Journalists.

[20]Paraguayan Press Union (SPP).

[21] Press and Society Institute (IPYS).

[22]International Federation of Journalists.