Report to the IAPA
March 28, 2020


Press freedom is undergoing a complex period due to the nearness of elections, the health crisis due to the epidemics of dengue and coronavirus, and violence against journalists.

On February 12 there was murdered Brazilian journalist Leo Veras on the patio of his house in the border city of Pedro Juan Caballero at the hands of armed assassins. The crime indicated the evidence of the connections between politics and drug trafficking and the consequences of attacks on journalists.

Veras ran the Web site Porá News and worked as a graphic reporter and correspondent of several Brazilian media. He was for a while a member of the regional newsroom of ABC Color, a time in which he had a police guard due to a series of threats.

Within the framework of the investigation into the crime there were held raids in Pedro Juan Caballero and the police captured several suspects, all of them linked to the criminal network headed by drug traffickers Sergio de Arruda Quintiliano Neto, alias Minotauro, Ederson Salinas Benítez, alias Ryguasu, both jailed in Brazil, and Marcio Sánchez, alias Aguacate.

In March journalists in Pedro Juan Caballero called for guarantees to be able to practice their profession before members of the Inter-Institutional Security Chamber for Journalists.

The head of the ABC Color correspondents in Pedro Juan Caballero, Cándido Figueredo, has been living under threat from drug traffickers for the last 24 years and eight months for his work and he has suffered four attacks, two against his home, amid gunshots, and two against his vehicle.

Public prosecutor Reinaldo Palacio asked the National Police to provide mechanisms of protection for ABC Color correspondent Gilberto Ruiz Díaz and his family due to threats received.

In October the Ministry of Education and Sciences (MEC) signed a contract for the acquisition of 2,760 notebooks and 138 projectors with Data Lab, a company that submitted the highest budget during the bidding. Asked about the motives for such a decision, apparently counter-productive, Education Minister Eduardo Petta did not provide the explanations requested, but called the journalists liars.

In October a complaint made by former Taxation Minister Marta González Ayala against the editor of the newspaper ABC Color and one of its journalists was taken to oral court after the defense rejected any conciliation. The former minister asked for reparation of more than $1,400,000 for journalistic publications on irregularities committed during her period in office. Judgment is still pending.

In November residents of the city of Caplibary, San Pedro department, came out in support of journalist Bruno César Benitez, aged 49, accused of tentative aggravated robbery and coercion. The journalist has a program on a local radio station. Local residents suspect that the accusation is seeking to prevent his journalistic work, as in that space he gives participation to peasant leaders and criticizes officials of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

In February there began the oral public trial of journalist Édgar Chilavert, deprived of freedom since October 2018 on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor, despite the fact that forensic evidence did not find elements that involved him in the offense of which he is accused. Witnesses presented by the female Public Prosecutor ended up accusing her of obliging them to lie. The forensic doctor of the Public Ministry confirmed before the court that abuse had not existed.

Before the charge against him being presentd Chilavert, a journalist with Radio Aquidabán FM of Concepción, had publicly exposed acts of corruption in the sale of the port of Concepción, capital of the department of the same name, carried out by Mayor Alejandro Urbieta with the permission of the Municipal Council.