Court actions cast a shadow over press freedom, as they once more demonstrated their propensity to favor the strong men of the government rather than confirm the people's inalienable right to press freedom. An Appeals Court fined Aldo Zuccolillo, editor of the newspaper ABC Color, $120,000 in a lawsuit for libel and defamation filed by Juan Carlos Galaverna, an influential politician and senator of the ruling Colorado Party, a confessed violator of the Constriction who is frequently mentioned as an alleged participant in acts of corruption and protector of officials, politicians and their associates involved in granting favors, nepotism or dubious businesses. Well-known public men and jurists called the court's decision an attack on press freedom. They stressed the danger of courts protecting officials whose names are involved in dark events rather than investigating them. Again there were numerous threats against journalists by police officers and public officials affected by reports of corruption and criticism in various media outlets. On October 18, Esteban Samaniego, a senator of the ruling Colorado Party, defended his colleague Juan Carlos Galaverna, whose name is frequently connected to alleged corruption. Samaniego protested "the constant intrigues against [Galaverna] by a newspaper," alluding to ABC Color, and asked "what is the power that Aldo Zuccolillo had?" Samaniego also asked why the Senate never bothered to investigate Zuccolillo, who he said was guilty of "abuses of the judicial branch, the legislative branch, and, of course, the executive branch" of government. Vicenta Risso, correspondent of ABC Color in Presidente Hayes state, west of Asunción, reported receiving a death threat from Eusebio Vergara, an aide to the state's governor, Eugenio Escobar Cattebeke. During municipal elections on November 18, Risso took a picture of a state government vehicle that belongs to the governor being used in electioneering for the Colorado Party. Annoyed by the reporter's action, Vergara told her: "Keep on taking pictures so you can take them to your grave as a souvenir." He repeated the threat twice. In the next days, Risso received similar death threats in anonymous telephone calls, so she reported them to the police and the state prosecutor. On November 20, the editor of ABC Color testified in a lawsuit brought by Abel Florentín Mendoza, a member of the Colorado Party who had been named to the commercial department of the government's Banco Nacional de Fomento. ABC Color published a story saying that the nominee had been put on trial earlier on charges of fraud and money laundering which would disqualify him for the job. Florentín Mendoza filed a criminal complaint, saying he had received anonymous threats after the article was published. Zuccolillo was called to testify by Judge Juan Carlos Paredes, and defended the press's right to criticize public figures and protect its sources. Nevertheless, on February 7, Florentín Mendoza filed a libel complaint against the editor of ABC Color. The plaintiff said the article had libeled him, and because of it he had been forced to resign the post. Also he received an anonymous message on his text-messaging pager, saying, and "Don't forget to read page 12 of ABC. This is the beginning of what is in store for you." The complaint is still before the courts. Juan Ernesto Villamayor, the minister of the Secretariat of State Reform, which is in charge of privatizing state businesses, told Radio Uno on December 6 that the editor of the newspaper Noticias, Eduardo Nicolás Bo, had asked to manage his agency's advertising to save the newspaper which reportedly was close to bankruptcy. The minister added that when the government refused, attacks against him and the privatization project began. "Mr. Bo directly asked me to manage the advertising policy of the Secretariat because his newspaper was bankrupt," Villamayor said. The editor emphatically denied the accusation. He said that when Villamayor complained about an article, he offered the pages of his newspaper for a reply. He said he never asked to manage the agency's advertising. On January 4, 2002, journalist Hernando Sevilla appealed to the ombudsman's office for compensation for being jailed and tortured during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, who was overthrown in 1989. Sevilla said that on February 6, 1981, he was kidnapped from the site of the newspaper Hoy where he worked and which no longer exists. He was held in a narrow police cell where he suffered many abuses until he was released on September 29, 1982. The journalist said that because he was Argentine, the police accused him of being a leader of the group that killed former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in Asunción in September of 1980. After he was released, he lived in exile in Sweden for six years. On January 9, a police station in San Juan Bautista, 300 kilometers south of Asunción warned the correspondent of ABC Color, Rafael Marcial Montiel, that it had received an anonymous telephone call saying the journalist's life was in danger. The police chief, Aníbal Rojas, asked him is he had personal problems with anyone or if something he had published had annoyed someone, and offered him protection. Montiel had published several reports of administrative irregularities in the government of Misiones, the state of which San Juan Bautista is capital. The reaction among the population caused the governor, Egidio Ruiz Pérez to be removed from office. Before his dismissal, the governor had filed a criminal complaint of defamation and libel against Montiel, and other government officials had filed other complaints. Montiel also had reported that some police agents formed gangs that robbed banks and armored trucks. On January 13, Sen. Juan Carlos Galaverna of the Colorado Party called journalists who cover the Senate "ignorant" and accused Francisca Pereira of La Nación of being a collaborator of former general Lino Oviedo, accused of planning the murder of Vice President Luis María Argaña in 1999, now in exile in Brazil. Galaverna frequently criticizes the press because of frequent published reports that he presumably takes advantage of his influence in the current government to be involved in corrupt acts. On January 15, the Paraguayan Journalists Union held a demonstration in front of Parliament to express its concern about labor conflicts, which bring frequent dismissals, which press workers must endure because of the economic adjustment policies that journalistic companies apply because of the country's bad economic situation. On January 25, Marco Nicolás Bo Pastori reported a death threat and the theft of a weapon to a criminal prosecutor's office. According to the report, when he left a restaurant at midday on January 21, he found a note under the windshield wiper of his pickup truck, saying, "Friend Coloso Bo. Be careful because I heard from retired captain Néstor Melgarejo at a meeting of friends of UNACE [the political movement of ex general Lino Oviedo] that someone is offering $200,000 for your head. No one accepted, but if more money is offered there will be people who will tackle the job. I won't give you my name for reasons of security and because I am afraid of those people, who I know will take it on. Be careful." The report adds that the same night he visited his mother in her home and when he left, he discovered that the rear window of the same pickup truck had been broken and a submachine gun and a briefcase that had a date book were missing. The theft was reported at a police station, and on January 24 he received another threat on his cell phone in the Guarani language, which said, "Your own bullet will kill you." On February 12, the Appeals Court, made up of judges Tomás Damián Cárdenas, Gustavo Ocampos and Carlos Bray, ordered the editor of ABC Color, Aldo Zuccolillo, to pay a fine of 541 million guaranis, or about $120,000, in a libel and defamation complaint brought against him at the end of 1998 by Sen. Juan Carlos Galaverna of the Colorado Party. He had requested compensation of 1.1 billion guaranis. Galaverna has publicly boasted of violating the Constitution, but his words have not had negative consequences for him either in the courts or among his peers in Parliament. ABC Color published articles linking Galaverna to the looting of the National Workers Bank (BNT), which later went bankrupt. In the trial court, Judge Hugo López had ordered Zuccolillo to pay a fine of 470 million guaranis, and that amount was later increased by the Appeals Court. This Appeals Court, remarkably, attributed to Zuccolillo statements that, although they were published in ABC Color, were said by other people, such as the murdered Vice President Luis Argaña, who called Galaverna a "petty thief." With respect to another publication in the newspaper about the legislator, that is that he was the political protector of the former president of the BNT, Edgar Cataldi, the same Appeals Court admitted in a decision sentencing Cataldi to 10 years in prison that he had been involved in a conspiracy. This opened the possibility of including influential people in the case. Sen. Diógenes Martínez of Galaverna's Colorado Party said there are reports about Galaverna that the courts should investigate before they convict the press. Galaverna requested that the court's sentence be ruled unconstitutional because he wants a jail sentence for Zuccolillo. The Appeals Court had only upheld the charge of defamation (not libel) and set the fine, which is to be paid to the state not to Galaverna. For this reason Galaverna requested that the legal concept be changed to an out of court settlement which would allow him to receive the amount of the fine. Using his customary coarse language, Galaverna accused the judges of being "accomplices" of Zuccolillo who are dominated by him through "money, homosexuality or extortion." Zuccolillo, through jurist Alejandro Encina Marín, requested that the decision be declared unconstitutional, reiterating the legal principles that govern the universal right of the press of investigate officials and shed light on their actions. Both motions are before the Supreme Court. On February 13, the Paraguayan Journalists Union reported that some journalists who covered a highly publicized case of kidnapping and torture of two leftist activists were threatened by police officers accused of participating in the abuses. They included journalist Aníbal Emery of radio station Ñandutí. On February 20, the Appeals Court of Ciudad del Este, 330 kilometers east of Asunción, rejected a complaint brought against the editor of ABC Color, Aldo Zuccolillo, by the Arab merchant Ahmad Khalil Chams, who lives there, who was offended by the newspaper's articles about his criminal record. The plaintiff denied having a record, but ABC Color published an arrest warrant issued against him by Interpol in Panama for fraud, and reproduced a fax of it. Judge Víctor Benítez Rodas rejected the motion in the trial court. On March 1, the Supreme Court ruled on a defamation and libel complaint brought by the well-known union leader Alan Flores against journalist Jorge Villalba Digalo, editor of the economic section of the newspaper Ultima Hora. Flores is currently in jail in Asunción after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for his participation in the looting of the National Workers Bank, which went bankrupt. Villalba Digalo published several articles reporting the participation of Flores and other union leaders in granting large loans without the consent of the leaders of their union federations, which contributed to the disappearance of the bank's assets. On March 6, an appeals court overturned an August 27, 2001 decision by Judge Jorge Bogarín González that had acquitted the editor of the daily newspaper Noticias, Eduardo Nicolás Bó Peña, of libel and defamation in a criminal complaint brought against him by businessman Reinaldo Domínguez Dibb. Noticias had published a report that government-owned machinery had been found on a farm owned by the businessman, where it was being used for private purposes while he was chairman of the National Sports Council. In the August decision, which at the time was considered a victory for press freedom, Judge Bogarín González stressed that the editor of Noticias did not have to prove his innocence, that it had not been proven that the facts of the case constituted a crime and that the objective of the published report was to defend the public interest. In the appeals court ruling, two members of the three-judge panel, Emiliano Rolón and Arnulfo Arias, held that "there is proof of criminal activity." The third member, Luis María Benítez, dissented, arguing that "the existence of a punishable act of libel and defamation has not been proved."