PARAGUAY Except for some isolated incidents, freedom of the press generally exists in Paraguay. The campaign for general elections last May was especially marked with such incidents. A decree signed by President Juan Carlos Wasmosy proposed the centralization of all state reports through the Social Communication Secretariat, which will be under the Executive Branch. The first article of the decree stipulates that the "press organs of the central administration and decentralized agencies and state-owned communication media must follow the directives and and instructions of the Secretariat of Social Communication of the Presidency of the Republic in matters of information and communication. In practice, however, this measure will result in censorship of official information that must first pass the sieve of the secretariat, which earlier had declared that information officials in the ministries and decentralized agencies must assure free access of the press to official information. On August 17, the government announced the closing of the national radio network that had taken over l0-minute time slots, starting at 7 p.m. on all Paraguayan radio stations in the post-Stroessner period. In Stroessner's time, the confiscated radio time served to broadcast offical propaganda in 30-minute time slots at noon and at 7:30 p.m. Dozens of private radio stations Charged that the government's official network was a confiscation of radio time belonging to the private sector and on several occasions sought unsuccessfully to remove the obligation. The new national Constitution, approved on June 20,1992, was the main factor that has affected freedom of the press in Paraguay, from a legal poin t of view. The Constitution contains numerous obscure rules of uncertain intention, whose application in practice could cause difficulties and could severely restrict freedom of the press. On one hand, the Constitution guarantees the press that it will not pass any law that limits or blocks the free expression of thought and opinion. On the other hand, various regulatory laws are still expected: the right to reply, the right to privacy, regulation of advertising, obligatory colegio membership and the concept of protecting a person's "image." Also, the new Constitution has created a new category of "newspaper-columnists," who can publish their articles while a publisher or editor can do nothing to control the content of the articles, except to "relinquish their responsiblility, and declare their dissent." Another ambiguous clause is in Article 27, which says: "The use of mass communication media is in the public interest; consequently, no one can censor it nor suspend its operations." This declaration, although apparently beneficial to the press, could serve to prevent the suspension of any communication media, not only because of some arbitrary action by the government, but also for any other reason, including the will of its owners or because of an economic crisis produced by misadministration or labor problems. Article 28 also is ambiguous and says: "The people will have the right to receive information which is true, responsible and just." In this case, the question is "Who will decide when information is or isn't true, responsible and just?" Will it be a judicial magistrate, the preSident, the Supreme Court or some other authority? The Constitution also bans journalists and the owners of communication media from being elected to the position of President of the Republic, or as senators or congressmen, thus overridng the democratic principle that gives each citizen the right to be elected to public office. On August 19, the Executive Branch introduced in Congress an ambiguous reform project of the Paraguayan Penal Code that dates from 1914. The project, which was drafted by the National Codification Commission, contains various rules which seek to impose restrictions on the press, in contrast to the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression. The most questionable articles are three: one restricts freedom of press, as set forth in article 127, imposing sanctions on any public official who reveals information or releases documents connected with his job. Another article introduces the concept of due obedience. A third article establishes rules very similar to the infamous Law 209, which aimed at repressing all dissent to the dictatorial Stroessner regime. Many of the provisions of the bill, which contains 315 articles and 22 chapters, seem to be inspired by the darker side of the Stroessner dictatorship. In Chapter IX, there is a reappearance of crimes against "peace and public order," very similar to those set forth in the infamous Law 209. The project includes "punishable offenses against peace and public tranquillity," which could be an indirect threat to freedom of expression. The possible restrictions seem to be covered up or stated explicitly in the language of several of the articles. For example, article 127 states that an official who reveals or divulges confidential public documents or who permits others to reveal them will be subject to six months to one year in prison and to a fine. Another rule refers to libel, defamation or injuries which will have added penalties if they are committed through the use "of any social communcation media or disseminated through printed papers .. " Another article establishes that the authorship of any "punishable, unsigned report which appears in the media or is disseminated by broadcast or television" will fall on the editor who is responsible for the communication media where the report appears. On August 18, Senator Carlos Romero Pereira, of the Colorado Party introduced a bill in the Senate which guarantees the operation of privately-owned radio and television stations. According to its author, the bill sets" clear rules that protect freedom of expression in all its forms." It specifies in its opening articles that any private broadcast station installed within Paraguay "will enjoy the right to broadcast its programs on its assigned frequency and with its authorized transmitting power." In a meeting on September 14, representatives of the Center for Regulation, Rules and Communications Studies (CERNECO) and owners of broadcast communications media petitioned the Senate Public Works Committee to form a Broadcast Council which will avert the state monopoly from granting licenses for the radio and television communication media as part of a study of rules for privatelyowned radio and television stations. Currently, the Press and Social Communication Committee of the Chamber of Deputies is considering a bill which would establish a press statute originally introduced in August 1991 and voted down by that committee on October 23, 1991. The bill had been rejected because of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression. It is hoped that it will be rejected again. In October 1992, the Chamber of Deputies ratified its bill for the "protection of consumers of products and users of services and commercial loyalty," eliminating Chapter III of the same which refered to the advertisement of products and services. The bill was approved in October 1992 but after being sent to the Executive Branch was objected to in part. Since December 1992, the bill is once again in the Congress and is currently being considered by the Commerce and Industry Committee of the lower house. On November 13, 1992, Hector Guerin, correspondent of the daily ABC Color, in Ciudad del Este, suffered an attack against his property. A group of unidentified persons shot his house repeatedly. On April 19, 1993, he was attacked together with Juan Carlos Salinas, correspondent of Noticias, by members of the Colorado Party. In November 1992, Juan Caballero, Kiko Servian and Marciano Candia, journalists from Radio Mburucuya in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, charged that they received anonymous phone calls with death threats over a IS-day period. At that time, the correspondent of the daily Ultima Hora, in Caazapa also was threatened with death. On February 16, 1993, Vicente Sarubbi Zaldivar, editor of the daily HOY, was charged with libel in a criminal proceeding by Nicolas Bo, president of the Private Communication Group (RPC). On February 27, 1993, Nicolas Bo asked the IAPA to intercede on its behalf with the Paraguayan Government to denounce arbitrary persecution and prefabricated charges against the RPC without legal grounds. On March 10, 1993, the RPC considered the firing of the Treasury lawyer Hugo Allen as proof of official persecution. The following day the RPC reported the fact to the IAPA. On May 3, 1993, members of the Colorado Party tried to attack Victor Roman, journalist of Radio Nanduti during the inauguration of a drinking water plant. On May 9, 1993, the transmitting facilities of Channel 13 and Radio Cardinal, of the RPC group, were attacked. A group of unidentified persons threw grenades and shot at the electrical generator. On May 31, the director of RPC, Nestor Lopez Moreira, denounced the attack to the IAPA and a complaint was filed in the courts. On August 6, 1993, the RPC complalned to the Joint Criminal Investigative Committee of the Congress that it was the victim of systematic fiscal harrassment during a series of audits carried out by the Finance Ministry. On August 8, 1993, former Justice and Labor Minister Oscar Paciello, denounced the "corrupt press" which "harms national interests." On August 9, 1993, Cesar Chaparro, a broadcaster for Radio Caaguaztl, received an anonymous telephone threat. On October 30, 1993, Emilio Ortiz, journalist with the afternoon paper Ultima Hora, was beaten and threatened with death by unidentified persons. In previous weeks, Ortiz had disclosed a case of alleged corruption in the state-owned National Administration of Communications.