People who were severely questioned for unseemly actions or run-ins with the law have proposed legislative bills that would muzzle the press. Julio Colmán, a legislator of the ruling Colorado Party, presented a bill concerning regulations under Article 28 of the Constitution that would establish ways to enforce the right of reply. The bill has four articles and provides that all information disseminated by the media “must at all times recognize the citizens’ right to privacy as well as providing true, impartial and responsible information within the context of respect for basic individual rights.” It would provide for two years of prison and prohibition from professional work for those who do not comply. Colmán presented this bill, which did not pass, after being severely criticized for ordering the release of a load of logs after a prosecutor had ordered its confiscation. José Nicolás Morínigo, a senator of the opposition Partido Patria Querida, suggested setting limits on the press. He was annoyed about criticism of a bill he sponsored to expropriate part of a foreign-owned private property. The Chamber of Deputies returned to an old debate about a bill mandating obligatory colegio membership for journalists, as well as other professionals. On April 29, a group of 23 civic organizations presented a freedom of information bill in the Chamber of Deputies. Journalist Benjamín Fernández Bogado, spokesman of the Group Supporting Freedom of Public Information (GIAI) said that for the organizations that sponsor the bill “open and transparent public information for all of society is the best guarantee of a strong democracy.” The text of the bill, which has 21 articles, establishes rules that require officials to give reliable and documented information to any citizen. It also sets prison sentences for those who try to cover up information. Some articles state that sensitive information affecting the financial sector or violating individuals’ privacy cannot be released. This bill is in addition to a similar one presented by Deputy Rafael Filizzola of the País Solidario party that is in committee. The Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill “Freedom of Public Information” on August 2. The bill sponsored by legislators of various parties establishes rules for providing information to citizens and specifically sets out who is required to give information. But a dangerous provision authorizes that some topics “that could affect national security” or “the privacy of individuals” can be withheld from the population. It even states that an official may refuse to give information, but in these cases it sets a sliding scale for fines. On August 3, the Constitutional Affairs Committee, withdrew its approval and decided to take more time to study the matter. Therefore, the debate is continuing. Congress approved Law No. 1682 “which regulates private information.” Among other things it provides that “it is prohibited to publicize or disseminate sensitive information about people who may be identified or identifiable.” There have also been many legal warnings and complaints against journalists by public officials affected by investigative reporting about their activities. In one of these cases, the agriculture minister at the time, Antonio Ibáñez, brought a legal warning and lawsuit against Erwin Rommel Gómez of the daily Última Hora, who published evidence of an alleged illegal sale of meat to the police force by the official. Ibáñez resigned later, overwhelmed by testimony gathered against him. Another attack on the press came from Senator Juan Carlos Galaverna of the ruling Colorado Party, who said in a speech at a party event that the press is primarily responsible for the political crisis in some sectors of the country. There have also been several threats and attacks on journalists of various media outlets in different parts of the country, which caused the Paraguayan Journalists Union (SPP) to issue a statement denouncing the climate of insecurity surrounding journalistic activity in the country. On March 28, Civil Judge Alberto Martínez, ordered Aldo Zuccolillo, editor of the daily ABC Color to pay damages equivalent to approximately $50,000 to the former senator Francisco José de Vargas. The judge argued that the former legislator had been libeled in an article saying that there had been payoffs in the judicial oversight board to remove prosecutor Alejandro Nissen, known for investigating alleged corruption involving high officials, from his job. At the time, former senator De Vargas was a member of the board. Zucolillo’s defense team has appealed the ruling. “The news story on the front page and page 2 of ABC Color has no byline, and therefore it is the editor’s responsibility to accept the consequences of this article,” the judge said in his ruling. In April, Pablo Medina, correspondent of ABC Color in Curuguaty, 400 kilometers east of Asuncion, received death threats, mainly because of his articles on the wood trade. On April 22, Última Hora reported that a person who introduced himself as a representative of former public health minister Julio César Velázquez, tried to bribe journalist Erwin Rommel Gómez to cover up an investigative report about a case of diversion of large amounts of money. On April 19, officials of the Justice and Work Ministry went to the office of Última Hora and demanded that the company deliver a long list of documents within 48 hours. The order was signed by Rubén Sosa López, deputy minister of work and social security, alleging that the “inspection” was in response to a request by the Paraguayan Journalists Union. The union said it had not made the request. On April 29, Obdulio Espinoza, mayor of San Antonio, 20 kilometers from Asunción, threatened Higinio Ruiz Díaz, correspondent of ABC Color, on two separate occasions. According to the journalist, Espinoza warned him by telephone, “Remember that you have a daughter, that you have a family and you have to watch out.” The reason appeared to be articles about corruption in public administration. The news editor of Última Hora, who accompanied Gómez to meet with notary Arrúa de Doldán, said, “Everything that can be said is in the paper.” Última Hora described the case as “another attempt to intimidate and silence the press” in an editorial on May 31. “With the threat of two years in prison and the lawsuit demanding millions from a journalist of Última Hora, instead of clarifying the charges against him, Agriculture Minister Antonio Ibáñez, resorts to the practice of using the law as a weapon to try to silence journalistic work. It is an old method that will not stop our mission of publicizing the government’s work,” the editorial said. Overwhelmed by evidence and statements in the newspaper reports, the minister resigned a few days later. In an inexplicable delay, the Supreme Court has not ruled on an appeal filed by La Nación newspaper seeking to overturn a conviction for an alleged fraud involving a 1996 promotional lottery. The appeal has foundered for more than two years even though the criminal case has been shown to be completely without merit, and the prosecutor's office has recommended that the defendants be found not guilty. A Venezuelan officer and Paraguayan Lt. Carlos Casco, who were part of the security detail of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez when he visited Paraguay, brutally attacked photographer Claudio Prieto of Última Hora on June 21 as he was doing his job. On July 20, members of the Municipal Council of Caaguazú, 220 kilometers east of Asunción, refused to allow reporters to attend sessions of their body. The dispute occurred when a council member was filmed asleep during a session. On August 4, the Paraguayan Journalists Union reported a dangerous increase in insecurity for journalistic work. It condemned the destruction of community radio station Quebracho Poty in Puerto Casado, 700 kilometers north of Asunción; an attack on Antonio Amarilla, a photographer of the daily Vanguardia of Ciudad del Este on the border with Brazil, and death threats to two journalists in Ciudad del Este and Pedro J. Caballero. One of the victims is Mariana Ladaga, coordinator of the SPP branch in Ciudad del Este and correspondent of La Nación. Another correspondent of this newspaper, Emerson Dutra, reported that he had received a telephoned death threat, probably from the drug trafficking mafia. On August 10, Filisberto Ramón Talavera, the circulation manager of Última Hora, was pistol-whipped by an attacker who said, “You people from Última Hora— again.” On August 23, Rossana Beltrán, a model, sued Víctor Benítez and Manuel Bernardes of Radio Uno, for libel. On their radio shows both of them made fun of her public statements that she was a virgin and would remain so until she married. On September 20, retired colonel Vladimiro Woroniecki sued several journalists and media companies for property damages. He accused them of having identified him as the killer of then Vice President Luis María Argaña, on March 23, 1999. Woroniecki demanded damages equivalent to $35,000 from Ignacio Martínez, Esteban Areco, Cristian Alvarenga and Marlene Franco, then of the daily Noticias, which has gone out of business. He also demanded at total of approximately $300,000 from television Channel 9 and the dailies Noticias, Última Hora and Popular. Woroniecki said some media companies, especially Noticias, showed no mercy with “false reports that gravely violated my rights.” This caused him to endure jail and a long legal process before being severed from the case. On September 21, prosecutor Delio González ordered a raid on the home of Héctor Guerín, editor of the daily Vanguardia, of Ciudad del Este, 330 kilometers from Asunción and correspondent of ABC Color in that area, to confiscate a vehicle of his wife Ángela Morínigo, saying it had been stolen. It has to do with an old legal proceeding that was reopened at this time. The journalist said it was a reprisal for reports he had made about corruption among the prosecutors of Ciudad del Este. Their involvement in the Guerín case was spectacular. Later, the company representing the brand of vehicle in Paraguay, clarified that it had been imported legally and sold used to Guerín’s wife.