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Paraguay9 October 2006

Local newspaper’s installations destroyed in property dispute

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today that all of the installations and equipment of the local newspaper El Espectador Luqueño were destroyed when its editor, Miguel Espínola, and his wife, Vilma Ayala, were evicted from the house in Luque (10 km outside Asunción) in which they have lived and worked since 1989.

They were thrown out as a result of an eviction order obtained by the Nascimiento family, which claims to own the house and which has good connections in the Luque municipal government.

“It seems highly likely that the property dispute was a pretext for destroying the newspaper’s installations,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Family ties between the Nascimientos and Luque’s mayor and a dispute between the newspaper and the municipal government support the claim that this was a press freedom violation. We hope the judicial authorities will, for this reason, rescind the eviction and order full compensation for the newspaper’s owners.”

In the course of the eviction, the newspaper’s installations and archives were destroyed, computers and other equipment were thrown into the street and, according to Ayala, the couple’s children were also treated roughly.

The couple had been living in the house with their children under a judicial order giving them right of occupation. It was disputed by the Nascimiento family, which claimed ownership on the basis of the notarised document of an ancestor dating back to 1930 and a document dating from 1994 about succession rights.

The expulsion was carried out by court bailiff Darwin González and attorney José Félix Orrego Nascimiento, who is related to both the family and the mayor.

Unoccupied since 1940, the house was requisitioned by the tax authority during the Stroessner dictatorship (1954-1989). Ayala maintains that she has been living in it since 1973. At that time, the authorities tried to prosecute the Espínola-Ayala family for unlawful occupation. After years of legal wrangling, the judicial authorities finally abandoned the proceedings because the lack of clear land title.

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