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Freedom of the Press 2008 - Paraguay

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 29 April 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Paraguay, 29 April 2008, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 19 (of 30)
Political Environment: 23 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 18 (of 30)
Total Score: 60 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Chronic problems that journalism has been suffering since the return of democracy in Paraguay continued during 2007. Although the Constitution supports basic press rights, legal loopholes facilitate defamation and libel cases. The continuation of libel or defamation lawsuits against newspapers brought by public officials not only endangers the finances of the press, but it also discourages journalists from practicing critical and courageous reporting.

Besides legal obstacles, three problems continue to undermine the emergence of independent journalism: the ambiguous commitment of national and local governments to press freedom, the intertwined relation between the Colorado party and media ownership, and the persistent power of criminal enterprises. Journalists who denounce political corruption and the linkages between political power and illegal business typically suffer the blunt of the anti-press violence, particularly in the interior and border towns where smuggling and drug-trafficking are widespread. As in previous years, journalists in 2007 suffered a string of verbal and physical attacks. Radio journalist Tito Alberto Palma was killed in the city of Mayor Oviedo in the border with Argentina in August 2007. A Chilean national who had lived in Paraguay since 1991, Palma had received threats over his exposes of corruption in the local government, including ties with drug-traffickers and other criminal interests. Reporter Javier Núñez in Coronel Oviedo also received death threats; it is suspected that they were linked to his denunciation of a criminal network of car wrecking. While the reappearance of radio journalist Enrique Galeano, who vanished in February 2006, was welcome, the lack of judicial investigation of several past cases of anti-press violence remains troubling.

Despite these problems, Paraguay has a media system characterized by lively debates and partisanship. Politicians and newspapers usually trade barbs. At times, however, such exchanges are counterproductive for press freedom, particularly when they come from powerful government officials. In a country where public funds are crucial for press economies, hostile comments against some news outlets perpetuate a climate of intimidation and self-censorship. Press freedom groups were concerned about President Nicanor Duarte Frutos's criticisms of the anti-Colorado press amidst the campaign leading up to the 2008 national elections. Unchecked political influence also undermines press freedom. The influence of a powerful senator of the ruling Colorado Party was suspected in the termination of a radio program in Paraguari. The program had been critical of local politicians and their suspected links to organized crime.

Paraguay has a diverse media system, with a number of private broadcasting stations and independent newspapers. But the dominance of the Colorado Party elite and a hostile political environment for assertive journalism prevent the media from offering a diversity of viewpoints. The sway of the Colorado party, which has been in power for six decades, in broadcasting policies and the arbitrary allocation of state advertising, remain serious obstacles. The lack of transparency about decisions to assign state advertising is a major problem, given that it the economic lifeblood for many media outlets. The SPP estimates that about 80 percent of radio stations are controlled by members of the Colorado Party. Also, the lack of resolution of the legal status of community radios, which are often the targets of intimidation by political officials and unidentified groups, further compromises the situation of press freedom in Paraguay. The Paraguayan Journalists Union remains concerned about the working conditions for reporters, including low wages and lack of benefits. In a country where only a fraction of the population has regular access to the Internet, no cases of government censorship or intimidation were reported.

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