Report to the 74th General Assembly
October 19 to 22
Salta, Argentina
During this period, press freedom was affected by legislative projects that seek to undermine the flow of information and by the constant aggressions to which journalists are exposed; all of which has led to a proposal to create a system of protection for human rights advocates that will include journalists.

In April, Mario Abdo Benítez was elected president. Since the fall of the dictatorship, he is the presidential election's winner with the smallest margin of difference: 3.7% over Efraín Alegre, candidate of the opposition's Alianza Ganar.

In the midst of a climate of questioning about a supposed lack of control of information during the general elections, Liberal Congressman Víctor Ríos announced that he would push for a law to prohibit the disclosure of exit polls before the close of the vote. This despite the fact that in 2007 the then minister of the Supreme Court, Víctor Núñez, argued in his rulings that prohibiting exit polls violates the freedom of the press and freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution.

The bill "that regulates the carrying out and dissemination of electoral surveys for positions of popular election and referendum," is under consideration in the Chamber of Deputies after having been approved in the Senate. Analysts argue that it violates Article 26 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press "without censorship", and Article 29, which declares that "the exercise of journalism, in any of its forms, is free and not subject to prior authorization."

The bill, which seeks to punish with fines of 785 million guaraníes (around $134,000) any media that broadcast exit polls before 1:00 p.m. on election day.

The bill also establishes fines of between 390 million guaraníes (around $62,000) and 680 million guaraníes (around $180,500) for any pollster who is not registered or does not submit all the technical data of the poll to the Election's department five days before its publication, and demands that opinion polls in TV programs or websites include the phrase: "The results of this survey are referential and have no scientific support."

In August, during a debate on "Challenges of 21st Century Journalism and Freedom of Expression" at the Asunción Media Show, Luis Reinoso - former head of Conatel and a member of the new government's transition team, proposed the regulation of press content because the "excess" in freedom of expression has turned into "license".

In August, the bishops of Carapeguá and Chaco questioned the government's plan to regulate press freedom. Monsignor Celestino Ocampo Gaona, bishop of the Diocese of Carapeguá, pointed out that regulating media content because of a supposed "excess" of free expression would be a setback for democracy.

In September, President Abdo Benítez - in a mass event held on the anniversary of the National Republican Association (ANR), accused former President Horacio Cartes of using his media to constantly attack his government.

In March, one year after the burning of the National Congress and the murder of Liberal leader Rodrigo Quintana at the headquarters of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), former Attorney General Óscar Germán Latorre declared – during a 970 AM radio program, that the media are decisive in judicial decisions and that the opposition media tried to establish that the attack was an operation to end the life of Efraín Alegre.

Last December, audio recordings leaked to ABC Color journalist, Mabel Rehnfeldt and broadcast on ABC Cardinal radio implicated Senator Oscar González Daher (ANR) - currently under trial and in prison, and his secretary, Raúl Fernández Lippmann, in crimes of extortion and influence peddling. The Senate withdrew the investiture of the former for "credible improper use of influence." From this case and others denounced in the press, a series of citizen movements have succeeded in getting the successive resignations and loss of privileges of parliamentarians involved in various corruption cases, such as legislator Jorge Oviedo Matto (Unace) or former deputy José María Ibáñez (ANR). Other legislators, such as Víctor Bogado (ANR), Carlos Portillo (PLRA), Enrique Salyn Buzarquis (PLRA), Enzo Cardozo (PLRA), are being prosecuted or charged.

In April, employees and supporters of former senator Oscar González Daher assaulted several journalists during coverage of the general elections. The three policemen present at the premises did not intervene. The aggressors were mostly public officials.

In May, Brazil's courts began preliminary proceedings against Flavio Acosta Riveros (33), accused of the double homicide of ABC correspondent Pablo Medina and his companion Antonia Almada in 2014. Flavio Acosta was arrested in January 2016 in Brazil. Because of his Brazilian nationality, he was not extradited to Paraguay. In September, federal judge Gabriela Hardt presented the case to a Popular Jury in Curitiba. For the first time, a Paraguayan citizen will be tried by the Brazilian justice system for a crime committed in Paraguay.

In May, the first meeting was held to promote the Law for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Advocates, which would provide security to journalists who receive threats for carrying out their reporting duties. A bill presented in 2017 by Olga Ferreira - an independent deputy, is currently before the National Congress and has a favorable opinion from the Human Rights Commission.

In May, ABC Color correspondent Alberto Núñez, who covers the lower Canindeyu – the region where journalist Pablo Medina was murdered, after receiving threats from Whatsapp, testified before the prosecutor of Capiibary, in the San Pedro department. The reason for the threats was a publication in the ABC Color newspaper about cassava trafficking to Brazil through the border town of Pindoty Porä. The homes of two of those identified were raided in June.

In May, lawyer Ezequiel Santagada asked the Court of Appeals to uphold Definitive Ruling No. 24, issued by criminal judge, Rubén Darío Riquelme, which orders the Comptroller's Office to deliver the sworn statements of assets and income of public officials requested by ABC Color journalist Juan Carlos Lezcano. The Comptroller's Office, through appeals, continues to refuse to hand over this public information.

In June, Paraguarí Governor Oscar Velaztiquí (ANR) warned ABC Color correspondent, Emilce Ramírez that he would denounce her to the courts for reporting on the use of departmental government resources in a private work, and demanded that she reveal her sources of information. According to Article 29 of the Constitution, journalists "shall not be compelled to act against the dictates of their conscience or to reveal their sources of information."

In June, following a complaint to the Public Prosecutor's Office for sexual harassment against Gustavo Duarte Ruiz Díaz - president of the Board of Directors of Tres Fronteras University, the rector of that institution, Nancy Romero de Duarte, filed an application for protection - which a judge granted, against several media outlets to prevent information about the case from being disseminated. The judge banned the Ciudad del Este newspaper Vanguardia and other media from mentioning the university.

In August, the Supreme Court of Justice rejected an unconstitutionality action brought by the Vanguardia newspaper to allow it to report.

In July, internal documents of the Binational Entity Yacyretá revealed - in addition to payments to newspapers, radio and TV stations, disbursements to journalists of various media. The Binational Entity distributed a total of 49,503 million guaraníes - almost 10 million dollars - since Horacio Cartes's arrival to the Presidency in August 2013.

In July, drug trafficker Felipe "Barón" Escurra eluded an operation to recapture him, allegedly thanks to Captain Bado's police. Barón Escurra fled minutes before the agents arrived at his hiding place. Captured by the Senate in 2016, he had been released in 2017 by Judge Leonjino Benítez. This ruling was overturned, but the criminal was never found. Barón Escurra was recorded in 2011 when he was planning, along with a Brazilian convict, the murder of ABC Color correspondent in Amambay - on the Brazilian border, Cándido Figueredo Ruiz.

In September, the radio station Crisol FM, owned by María Auxiliadora, Itapúa, ceased to operate due to a provision from the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel). The case generated a political dispute since the measure is based on a lawsuit by a politician who owns another station.

Some media and journalists are concerned about the creation of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies, a new institution that brings together several secretariats of the sector and has been described as a "super ministry".

It is feared that it will become a body with greater control by the Executive Branch over the activities of the press, broadcasting, television and the internet.