The press has seen three major developments since last October: Evidence has surfaced that the administration of former President Nicanor Duarte Frutos tried to buy off news outlets and journalists through the placement of government advertising and the direct transfer of large amounts of money; some communications policy initiatives pursued by the current administration of Fernando Lugo have raised suspicions; and the press is beginning to feel the effects of the worldwide economic crisis. After 61 years of continuous rule by the Colorado Party, an unprecedented political process has begun under a new leadership. This has allowed the government’s relations with some media outlets, communications consulting firms, public relations agencies, and journalists to flourish in recent years. The previous administration played favorites by placing inexplicably large amounts of government advertising in some media outlets and granting highly lucrative contracts to certain journalists, in a calculated attempt to buy support, silence, and favors. Huge sums of money were poured into all kinds of advertising and media campaigns in the months leading up to the general elections. In light of documents discovered after the defeat of the Colorado Party, it is now apparent that the previous administration had attempted to muffle criticism and promote praise — or, at the least, it had tried to procure the silent complicity of the media. These documents have been investigated and disseminated by the press. Not all news is good under the new administration. It is pursuing communications and media initiatives that require greater clarification in terms of their scope and implementation. While President Fernando Lugo has stated more than once that “press freedom will be strictly observed, we will never place restrictions, and it is not our intention to violate the right to free speech,” some recent actions require further explanation. For example, a nationwide work project announced on January 20 will involve more than 700 community radio stations and 1,000 young people as “agents for development.” This “Communications Program for Development” — to be coordinated by the National Communications Secretariat with a budget of some one million dollars — more closely resembles a huge pro-government propaganda campaign that will reach into all areas of the country. It is unclear just what role is be played by the so-called Government News Agency, which has been on the Internet since January 19. The official explanation seems to be that the government particularly needs a presence on the Web to reach the thousands of Paraguayans who live abroad. Again, it seems that the intention is to create another vehicle for disseminating propaganda under the guise of innocent journalism. Many members of the government believe they are immune to criticism, judging from the behavior of parties belonging to the Patriotic Alliance for Change, except for the Authentic Radical Liberal Party. These parties issued a statement alleging a vicious media campaign aimed at discrediting Lugo and his closest assistants. They accuse the press of paving the way for political agitation and the possible overthrow of the government. This intolerance of criticism is reminiscent of the previous administration. In past eras, the same forces now making this groundless accusation were stridently defending press freedom and the right to practice journalism freely. The economic crisis has a direct impact on the advertising budgets, which in turn has a negative impact on the quality of news coverage available to the public. Lastly, the IAPA urged President Lugo to support the investigation into the April 26, 1991, killing of journalist Santiago Leguizamón. This is particularly important today because journalists working in the long border region with Brazil — where Leguizamón himself worked — continue to face threats and put their lives on the line. President Lugo pledged the efforts of the office of the presidential legal adviser and the attorney general’s office to see that this heinous killing is solved and that those responsible are brought to justice. This will hopefully help defend those journalists who face threats from gangs of drug traffickers and smugglers. Below are the major recent developments: On November 1, U.S. news photographer Evan Abramson was detained and held for nine hours in Ciudad del Este after photographing a property owned by German businessmen. On November 4, Hidroeléctrica Binacional Itaipú (a company that operates the Itaipú hydroelectric power plant) gave out 65 billion guaranís, or US$13 million, to the press (media outlets and independent journalists) during the election campaign, according to an investigative report by the newspaper ABC Color. On November 6, members of the Young Communists threatened journalist Eduardo Quintana, accusing him of lying about statements made by peasants. “We’re going to visit your house,” one of them told him. On December 4 and 5, the government held the National Communications Forum, where President Lugo said there are no plans to propose or discuss any press law or code of ethics for the media. Communications Minister Augusto dos Santos said that the purpose of the forum was not to hinder or silence anyone, but rather to get media outlets and journalists to regulate themselves. On December 28, the Paraguayan Chamber of Radio and Television Station Owners called on the government to provide stronger legal protections and clamp down on unfair competition from unauthorized radio stations. It also called for a more organized process for bidding on and awarding radio frequencies. On January 29, it was reported that the actions of President Lugo are shrouded in deep secrecy. In what marks a major shift from its previous approach, the administration is now denying journalists access to the presidential cabinet’s planning sessions.