Area: 406,750
Population: 6,158,000.
Language: Spanish.
Head of state: President Nicanor Duarte Frutos.

The disappearance of radio journalist Enrique Galeano, and his probable murder by drug-traffickers in league with local authorities, deeply traumatised the country's media. The official investigation has made no progress despite the promises of President Duarte Frutos.

Paraguayans and their media were shocked when journalist Enrique Galeano, of Radio Azotey, in Concepción province, vanished on 4 February 2006. President Nicanor Duarte Frutos discussed the matter with a national journalists' association (SPP) delegation on 6 October but the investigation moved slowly and local political figures were suspected of being involved.

Three months after Galeano disappeared, police said he had been having an affair and shelved the enquiry. The interior minister said the journalist had asked police to protect him from local drug-traffickers just before he vanished, though district commissioner Osvaldo Nuñez denied this. The SPP said Galeano had been kidnapped on the orders of Nuñez and held by two of his aides before being handed over to drug-traffickers who killed him and threw his body in a river. Local fire service divers failed to find him on 21 October. Before he disappeared, Galeano had reported the seizure of a shipment of weapons and cocaine in the presence of Nuñez and Magdaleno Silva, an MP of the ruling Colorado Party suspected of ties with drug-traffickers.

In such a fragile democracy with deep-rooted corruption (the worst in South America, according to Transparency International), journalists do not dare probe too deeply into scandals involving politicians. The daily ABC Color was ordered by the supreme court to pay $200,000 in libel damages to Sen. Juan Carlos Galaverna, an ally of President Duarte Frutos, for saying he was involved in corruption. The court also confirmed on 5 December a 10-month prison sentence (commuted to community service) on ABC Color journalist Luis Verón for "insults" and "libel". Juan Augusto Roa, the paper's correspondent in the southern town of Encarnación (another drug-smuggling centre), survived an attempt to shoot him on 27 February.

As in most Latin American countries, the authorities are unfriendly to community radio stations and small independent newspapers. Radio stations Manantial FM and Tenondé FM, which were awaiting a decision on their broadcasting frequency, were forcibly shut down on 19 June. The equipment of the newspaper El Espectador Luqueño was destroyed in Luque, near Asunción, in October by order of the mayor using the pretext of a land dispute.


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