PARAGUAY Attacks on journalists and media outlets, as well as counterproductive legal rulings and bills that officials want to use to protect themselves from journalists’ work have cast a shadow on press freedom. While there is no press law, the body of criminal law serves to protect public officials, prevent transparency in governance and gag the media. This legislation has become a tool that is starting to be used to threaten trials against journalists, dailies and ordinary people, taking advantage of the polarization of the media. On October 3, Omar Jara, a correspondent of the newspaper La Nación in San José de los Arroyos, 60 mile east of Asunción, said he had been threatened and verbally abused by two traffic policemen, because he had repeated complaints against them for demanding bribes from motorists to drop penalties for supposed traffic offenses. On October 4, Richard Estanislao Gómez Caballero, who was detained on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Vice President Luis María Argaña on March 23, 1999, but later was released, filed a lawsuit for libel against Eduardo Nicolás Bo, editor of the newspaper Noticias. Gómez Caballero demanded that the editor be sentenced to two years in prison and payment of about $850,000 in damages. The plaintiff alleged that the newspaper irresponsibly said he had committed the crime when the investigation was in its earliest stages. On October 5, an appeals court in Este, about 200 miles east of Asunción, upheld the order of a lower court that Hector Guerín, editor of the local newspaper Vanguardia to pay a fine of $1,650 in libel and defamation lawsuit brought by Jorvino Urunaga, the governor of Alto Paraná province. The case concerned articles in the newspaper about alleged irregularities in the provincial government, based on reports from the national comptroller´s office and local city council members. Election officials accused the editor of ABC Color, Aldo Zuccolillo of electoral offenses and demanded that he be put on trial. ABC Color published two editorials supporting one of the candidates in the August 13 vice presidential election on the eve of the election and on election day. The Electoral Law prohibits “election advertising” two days prior to an election. The officials asked a judge to try Zuccolillo for “intentional violation of Articles 293 and 320 of the Electoral Code.” Article 293 prohibits, among other things, electioneering in the two days before an election. Article 320 states that executives of media outlets that violate the time limits on election advertising will be liable to sentences from six months to two years in prison plus a fine equivalent to 500 daily wages. Legal action was also taken against Noticias by officials of the current government over its allegations on possible use of Central Bank reserves in money laundering, calling for documentation of the president’s cars and criticizing the president of the National Sports Council, accusing him of bid-rigging. On August 28, Zuccolillo testified before Criminal Court Judge Alcides Corbeta, defending the citizens’ right to express opinions as set forth in the National Constitution. The judge barred the editor from leaving the country and ruled that he should appear in court on the 28th of every second month at 9 a.m. This ruling is still in effect. On August 15, demonstrators of the Colorado Reconciliation Movement, an internal faction of the ruling Colorado Party, attacked the office of radio station Ñanduti. They threw stones, glass bottles and firecrackers, which broke the display windows of the radio station but caused no personal injuries. Elizabeth Palma, a reporter for the Sistema Nacional de Televisión (Canal 9) was hit by a car driven by Calixto Argüello, head bodyguard of the former general comptroller of the republic, Daniel Fretes Ventre, who is on trial on corruption charges. Palma was seriously injured. Reporters who covered the incident said Argüello hit Palma on purpose when she was trying to interview him. On August 18, Argüello appeared before criminal prosecutor Raúl González but declined to testify. He later told journalists it was an “accident,” and he did not intend to hit Palma. On August 23, the prosecutor ordered Argüello’s arrest. On August 22, the newspaper Noticias said it had received bomb threats, and the home of one of its journalists, Marlene Franco had been shot at. On August 21, César Olmedo, a photographer of the newspaper La Nación, was beaten and his camera was broken by a member of the “anti-riot” police trying to quell a workers´ demonstration. On August 24, Camilo Cantero, news director of the radio station Libertad FM in San Ignacio de las Misiones, 140 miles south of Asunción and the local correspondent of the Asunción newspaper Ultima Hora, was detained on the orders of criminal judge Juan Carlos Paredes. Cantero said the case began when he presented a report to the Court for Judging Magistrates about alleged questionable maneuvers by Judge Mario Maidana of San Ignacio, including the falsification of signatures. The court turned down the report on a technicality without analyzing it. Cantero was freed after six days, but his freedom of expression and movement were severely restricted. The judge also prohibited him from leaving Asunción, so he cannot return to San Ignacio where he lives and works. César Martínez, a correspondent of ABC Color in Villarrica, 108 miles east of Asunción, was beaten by Pedro Lomaquis, the husband of a provincial official of Guairá. The journalist had written articles criticizing some of the official’s actions and said she was a “fervent defender” of the dictatorship of Gen. Alfred Stroessner, who was overthrown in 1989. An IAPA delegation visited Paraguay September 4-6 for the National Forum on the Declaration of Chapultepec. The Chamber of Deputies approved a bill restricting the publication of an individual´s assets and credit history. Media analysts and jurists consider the bill, now before the Senate, as a possible obstacle to journalists investigating the way public officials obtain their assets. This could establish impunity for thefts from state coffers by officials. Many people say the bill threatens press freedom. On May 18,there was a coup attempt, and radio station 9.70 was seized by an armed group shouting seditious slogans. On May 19, the owners of radio station Asunción, Miguel and Adriana Fernández, and the owner of radio station Nanawa, Juan Carlos Bernabé were detained. On May 20 the government ordered the arrest of Hugo Ruíz Olazar of ABC Color and correspondent in Paraguay of the Argentine newspaper Clarín and Agence France-Presse, saying that he should be held at the First Infantry Division. But Ruíz Olazar went to the newspaper´s office and filed a habeas corpus petition. It was rejected by criminal judge Gustavo Ocampos. Ruíz Olazar was not detained, but police officers were stationed in front of ABC Color, as they had been during the Stroessner dictatorship, when repressive measures were taken against the press. There were also violent attacks against radio stations Ybytyruzú of Villarrica, 150 miles east of Asunción, and the station Asunción, whose transmitters were destroyed. On April 14, The body of radio reporter Benito Ramón Jara Guzmán was found with six gunshot wounds in the town Bernardino Caballero, 240 miles north of Asunción. He had been a correspondent of radio station Yby Yaú. The crime has not been solved. Ricardo Canese, an engineer who writes technical articles about the electricity industry, was “systematically persecuted” after saying in response to reporters’ questions that former president Carlos Wasmosy “was a front man for Stroessner in Itaipú.” Canese said the persecution came from Wasmosy and the “barons of Iraipú,” a group of businessmen who benefited from contracts granted by Stroessner’s dictatorship in the construction of the Itaipú hydroelectric dam, the largest in the world, which was built by Paraguay and Brazil on the Paraná River that forms the border of the two countries. The government’s “justice” sentenced him to four months in prison in March 1994 and a $7,500 fine for “offending” Wasmosy. Canese pointed out that the Montevideo newspaper La República published an article with the headline “Wasmosy stole $29 million,” based on an internal audit of the binational Itaipú corporation. Wasmosy, who was then president of Paraguay, sued the Uruguayan newspaper, and a Uruguayan judge ordered the imprisonment of its editor.