The principal threats to and violations of freedom of expression and press freedom come from two quarters. On the one hand, the practice of journalism in border areas, especially on the border with Brazil, continues to be at great risk, as it is there that there are groups and criminal organizations linked to drug trafficking, money laundering, piracy and smuggling among other transnational criminal activities for which the news media and their investigations are bothersome. On the other hand, through lawsuits taken out in the courts politicians and powerful groups seek to silence the work of the press and bring about self-censorship. The country is immersed in a pre-electoral process leading up to presidential elections on April 21, 2013. The majority of the political parties are holding internal or primary voting to come up with presidential candidates. Since the administration of President Fernando Lugo there has been an increase in attacks on the press, which the executive branch accuses of “lack of understanding” and “insensitivity” in failing to report to the public, from its perspective, on the political, economic and social achievements of the government. In a public ceremony held in Caacupé, Cordillera province, the president attacked media that had denounced wrongdoing committed by its supporters and officials. He claimed that his appointed National Emergency Preparedness Minister, Camilo Soares, was “the victim of a terrible persecution.” On March 1 President Lugo accused the news media of not understanding the “demand of the excluded ones,” an allusion to an existing conflict concerning land-holding in the eastern part of the country. A group calling itself “carperos” made up of supposed landless peasants is demanding possession of parts of ranches owned by soy growers. In a number of cases the ranches were forcibly invaded by groups close to Lugo. During the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Summit, held in Asunción in late October, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa proposed to his regional counterparts adoption of an action to “regulate” the press. He said that news media “are privately-owned for-profit businesses, but they are not selling ties, they are selling information, a public asset that is detrimental to or benefits all society … . Of course, society in a collective action must regulate those businesses.” The main developments in this period: On October 27 a civil appeals court upheld the conviction of the editor of the newspaper ABC Color, Aldo Zuccolillo, on a charge of libeling Judge Carmelo Castiglioni. The charge was that the newspaper harmed the judge’s honor and reputation in using in a publication the expressions “suspiciously” and “there was a lot of political interference.” The article made reference to the disassociation of former Paraguayan president Luis Ángel González Macchi in a case of the sending abroad of $16 million from two privately-owned banks (Unión and Oriental) during his administration. The ABC Color editor was ordered to pay 200 million guaranis (approximately $50,000) in damages, plus interest at 2% per month. Zuccolillo on November 15 filed with the Supreme Court a claim that the court order was unconstitutional. Former model Zunilda Castiñeira sought to have some judges recused so she could have an Appeals Court made up of those who would rule in her favor on an appeal of the June 30, 2011 ruling in which a lower court judge had acquitted ABC Color reporter Sandra López in a libel suit that the businesswoman and former model had brought concerning a story that appeared on June 28, 2009. Castiñeira recused Appeals Court judges José Waldir Servín and Anulfo Arias, an action which ended up postponing the legal proceedings. The Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court rejected an action brought by Yuty district radio reporter César Ferreira, who sought to overturn the invalidation of an Appeals Court ruling concerning a libel suit filed by Colorado Party politician Benjamín Adaro Monzón, who had been accused of transporting meat that was the result of cattle theft in his vehicle. Early in March the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court annulled the quashing of proceedings against the ABC Color correspondent in Caazapá, Antonio Caballero, on trial for alleged extortion in June 2008. He had been arrested and charged some hours after talking with former public prosecutor Vidal Sánchez Aranda, who was filmed by a television channel at the moment he was receiving 7 million guaranis (some $1,500) from local businesswoman Beatriz Gamarra, who allegedly said that the money “was for Antonio Caballero.” On June 8, 2009 criminal court judge César Acosta ordered the dismissal of the case against the journalist, a ruling that was upheld on August 26, 2009 by an appeals court. With the new court ruling the case returns to the stage of preliminary hearings. Retired Army general and leader of the National Union of Ethical Citizens Party (UNACE), Lino César Oviedo Silva, filed a libel suit against journalist María Herminia Feliciángeli of Radio Mil. According to Oviedo in the course of an interview the reporter accused him of having killed former Paraguayan Vice President Luis María Argaña and youths taking part in the so-called Paraguayan March, as the political crisis that ended in March 1999 with the resignation of the then president, Raúl Cubas Graum is known. Oviedo is calling for the reporter to be sent to prison for three years and fined 500 million guaranis (some $125,000). On November 25 a group of unidentified persons attacked the Babilonia radio station in Paso Yobái owned by Lucio Amilcar Pérez, brother of ABC Color correspondent Guido Pérez. The assailants proceeded to cut the wiring that held up the station’s antenna tower. It all points to the work of people linked to the business of unlawful exploitation of gold mines who were understood to be angry at the stance taken by the two journalists against their activity. This same case was repeated early in February. On December 4 the correspondent of the newspaper Vanguardia in Santa Rita, Alto Paraná province on the border with Brazil, Sergio Denis Rubinich, was the victim of an attack by supposed hitmen who shot at his pickup truck. Some hours before the attack Rubinich had complained of threats for having taken photos of a truck belonging to the District Attorney’s Office at the home of a private individual. On December 10 the arrest was reported of Fidel Duarte, suspected of being involved in the death of announcer Merardo Romero on March 3, 2011. His arrest brought to four the number of persons detained for the journalist’s murder. The others implicated are political operative Silvio Samudio Benítez, Arnildo Enciso Borja, said to be one of those who actually carried out the homicide, and Ofelio José Pérez Paredes. It is believed that the hitmen were paid 8 million guaranis (some $2,000) for the murder. Inquiries by the Crime Investigation Department indicate as the alleged mastermind forestry businessman and local Colorado Party politician José Ramón Valenzuela. Brazilian police officers confirmed in late December that they had intercepted a telephone call in which plans were revealed of the murder of the ABC Color correspondent in Pedro Juan Caballero (in Amambay province in northern Paraguay, on the border with the Brazil), Cándido Figueredo. He said the threats came from groups of drug traffickers angry at the effects of published reports. The case was referred to local public prosecutor Justiniano Cardozo. One day after the matter became public, on January 15, Amabay Governor Juan Ramírez said he was “sure” that the one who planned the murder was Felipe “Barón” Escurra, a crime boss in the town of Capitán Bado. The conversation involving Escurra, which was intercepted by the Anti-Organized Crime Action Group of the Brazilian city of Campo Grande, is now in the hands of the public prosecutor handling the case. On March 1 reporter Anibal Gómez of the radio station Oasis in Pedro Juan Caballero, on the border with Brazi,l 330 miles north of the Paraguayan capital, accused Liberal senator Robert Acevedo of having threatened to kill him and go after his family. This was a result of his having offered a space on the radio to the sister-in-law of the congressman and wife of the local mayor, José Carlos Acevedo, to denounce his having had an extra-marital affair. On March 19 the head of the Paraguay Broadcasters Union (URP), Alberto Riveros, spoke of the laxity of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) in carrying out adequate control of the country’s radio frequencies. He charged that the agency is controlled by politicians and not technicians. The union says that for every commercial radio station in the country there are believed to be three or four pirate ones. The lack of control, Riveros said, is due to the lack of acquisition of adequate equipment to have better control of radio frequencies and of a monitoring system in the border towns of Ciudad del Este and Encarnación.