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Area: 406,752 sq. km
Population: 5,636,000
Languages: Spanish, Guarani
Type of state: republic
Head of state: President Luis González Macchi

Paraguay - 2003 Annual Report

Despite an unhealthy political climate, press freedom was largely satisfactory. In the provinces, however, journalists still had to cope with local politicians with few democratic instincts.

Press freedom was not seriously obstructed in 2002. But outside the capital, journalists had to face politicians who did not like criticism and three were expelled from a meeting of the town council in San Alberto, in Alto Parana province. When a councillor protested, the mayor told him to shut up.
President González Macchi was implicated in corruption, influence-peddling and embezzlement scandals and was under threat of impeachment. But despite this unstable situation, the government respected freedom of expression. However, two radio stations that criticised the president for corruption were warned by his spokesman that their operating licences might be cancelled. He later retracted the threat.
The publisher of the daily paper ABC Colour, Aldo Zuccolillo, was heavily fined in a libel suit and journalist Miguel López was questioned by legal officials about his sources of information. But these troubling incidents were isolated ones.

New information on a journalist killed before 2002
The 25-year jail sentence on Milciades Maylin for murdering journalist Salvador Medina was confirmed by an appeals court on 28 March 2002. Medina, a journalist with the community radio station Ñemity, in Capiibary, in the northern province of San Pedro, was shot dead on 5 January 2001 after exposing a timber racket involving politicians and a gang of criminals in the region. His family said they would keep up pressure for the punishment of those who ordered the killing.

A journalist physically attacked
Vicenta Risso, correspondent of the daily ABC Color in the northern town of Villa Hayes, was attacked on 6 December 2002 by Carlos Agüero, husband of Katia Marlene Fernandez de Agüero, a civil servant in the town of Benjamin Aceval, who tried to crash into the journalist’s car and made her stop. The attacker’s wife had been dismissed for corruption, which had been regularly exposed by Risso.

Two journalists threatened
Rafael Marcial Montiel, correspondent of ABC Color in the town of San Juan Bautista de las Misiones, was given police protection on 9 January 2002 after receiving a death threat. The journalist had recently reported embezzlement by local officials and politicians and links between the police and criminals.
Anibal Emeri, of Radio Ñanduti, received threats after witnessing the release on 29 January of three left-wing activists who had been seized by apparent state security agents. The journalist recognised a policeman among the kidnappers at the scene of the release. The national journalists’ union said the threats came from police officers and were also made to a TV journalist.

Pressure and obstruction
The publisher of the daily paper ABC Colour, Aldo Zuccolillo, was fined 541 million guaranis (125,700 euros) on 13 February 2002 for libelling Sen. Juan Carlos Galaverna by calling him a "biscuit thief" and "influence peddler" in a 1998 article. The court said these were "offensive terms" that "not only harm the dignity of the person but also undermine and alter public attitudes."
Miguel López, of the daily Ultima Hora, was summoned on 25 June to appear before a judge after the paper published an interview that day with the fugitive main suspect in a kidnapping case. The judge, Cinthia Lovera, failed to get him to say where he had interviewed the suspect. The judge in charge of the kidnapping case, Pedro Ovelar, warned he might prosecute López for obstruction of justice. The next day, the journalist got phone threats.
The equipment of the community radio station Ñemity, in the northern town of Capiibary, was seized on 3 July by order of the national telecommunications council Conatel in what was seen as revenge on the station for giving a voice to local people. After a big demonstration in front of its offices on 9 July, Conatel reversed its decision and said it would return the equipment.
The programmes "El Túnel" of the TV station Telefuturo and "El Informante" of the station Red Guaraní broadcast on 30 October and 6 November recordings of phone conversations implicating President González Macchi and top officials in influence-peddling. The content of the recordings was widely reprinted in the newspapers. The TV stations received threats that their broadcasting frequencies would be cancelled.
Fermín Jara, correspondent of the daily ABC Color, and Asunción Caballero, a photographer with the daily La Vanguardia, along with a local radio journalist, were expelled by police from a meeting of the town council in San Alberto, in Alto Paraná province, on 6 December. The protests of opposition councillors were overruled. One councillor accused the journalists of being rude for taking pictures of him.

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see also
2003 Africa Annual Report
2003 Asia Annual Report
2003 Europe Annual Report
2003 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report