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Paraguay15 June 2007

Two radio journalists threatened, phones tapped by anti-drug agents

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the safety of Vladimir Jara and Víctor Benítez of radio Chaco Boreal, who have received threats and whose phones have been illegally tapped since revealing alleged corruption within Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD). The organisation calls on the authorities to carry out administrative and judicial investigations into the matter.

“Cases of corruption and drug trafficking expose journalists to great risks, and the disappearance a year and a half ago of journalist Enrique Galeano, who was investigating this kind of case, is still unsolved” the press freedom organisation said. “The threats against Jara and Benítez and the tapping of their phones are grave abuses of authority that indicate serious problems in the way the administration is functioning. The judicial authorities cannot let this go unpunished.”

Jara told the state prosecutor’s office on 13 June that he received death threats from SENAD agents and that his mobile and fixed line telephones were being tapped. He said the threats and tapping were a reprisal for his having talked about corruption within the SENAD in a radio interview with Benítez, whose phones lines have also allegedly been the target of illegal tapping. Previously, Benítez had called Jara on this subject because he had been following anti-drug operations.

After that call, a SENAD official took Jara to task, saying it would wiser for him to defend the SENAD as it was a regular source of advertising revenue for the radio sation. Jara subsequently receiving email and mobile phone messages telling him to “shut up.” SENAD’s public announcements for his programme were cancelled the same day.

The Paraguayan press is still traumatized by Galeano’s disappearance on 4 February 2006 in the central department of Concepción (see release of 4 February 2007). Shortly before he went missing, Galeano, who worked for local Radio Azotey, had discovered the existence of questionable links between certain local officials and a Brazilian drug cartel. The case has never been solved, despite President Nicanor Duarte’s promises.

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