Report to the Midyear Meeting
April, 19-22 2022
Threats to journalists, coupled with judicial harassment through lawsuits against journalists - used as forms of indirect censorship - show the difficult scenario for the exercise of press freedom.

In November, the Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives gave a favorable opinion to the bill "For the protection of journalists, communicators and human rights defenders," promoted by deputies Roya Torres and Esmérita Sánchez (PLRA) and Rocío Abed (ANR) - to provide communicators with an adequate legal framework for their profession.

Also noteworthy in this semester is the non-compliance with the Law of Access to Public Information by the binational entity Itaipu.

Another case of withholding of information involves the Central Bank of Paraguay (BCP), which replied to a request made by the Senate on money laundering and loans granted by the former President of the Republic Horacio Cartes - to the bankrupt financial company Aara and the indicted Ramón González Daher - with a document of more than 100 pages completely illegible, since its content was crossed out.

Relevant events in this period.

In October, Judge Olga Ruiz González declared the dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the firm Green SA against ABC Color journalist Juan Carlos Lezcano. The company had sued the journalist for his publications on a bidding process declared irregular.

In November, attorneys Raúl Prono and Arturo Daniel - representing the newspaper La Nación - reported to the Public Prosecutor's Office that unidentified persons used the newspaper's logo to spread false news on Twitter. The investigation was conducted by Irma Llano, prosecutor of the Computer Crimes Unit.

In December, Flavio Acosta Riveros, one of the perpetrators of the double murder of ABC Color journalist Pablo Medina and his assistant, Antonia Almada - on October 16, 2014 in Villa Ygatimí, Canindeyú department - was found guilty by the Tribunal do Júri of Curitiba, Brazil, and sentenced to 36 years in prison.
In January, on radio 650 AM, the mayor of Asunción, Óscar Rodríguez, accused the media of carrying out a smear campaign against him. In previous months, he had already posted the same accusation on his social networks - pointing the finger at ABC Color.

In January, Itaipu Binacional sent a note to the Supreme Court of Justice calling unconstitutional the injunction filed by representatives Kattya González (PEN) and Édgar Acosta (PLRA) - in light of the binational entity's repeated refusals to provide public information.

In January, criminal judge Agustín Delmás granted the injunction filed by ABC Color journalist Juan Carlos Lezcano and ordered the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) to publish the sworn statements of assets and income of all public officials for the years 2020 and 2021.

In January, Bruno César Benítez - host of the program Info Mañanero on La Voz FM radio in Capiibary, San Pedro department - reported an attack by unknown persons who shot at his vehicle while he was working.

In January, the one-man sentencing court presided by Judge Víctor Alfieri sentenced journalist Marcos Velázquez to one year and nine months in prison for defamation, slander and libel against Alejandro Domínguez - president of the South American Soccer Confederation (Conmebol). He also imposed a fine of 20 million guaraníes.

A similar case took place in December involving journalist César Ávalos, who was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, for slander and libel against the president of Conmebol - who sued him for a publication made more than two years ago on the journalist's Twitter account.

In February, the start date of the trial of Natalia Zuccolillo, editor of ABC Color, and Juan Carlos Lezcano - a journalist of that newspaper - was postponed. Both had been sued in September 2019 by the former vice-minister of Taxation Marta González following publications about irregularities in her administration. The publications that motivated the legal action were based on public data from the General Office of Public Contracting of the Ministry of Finance.

February marked the second anniversary of the murder by gunmen of Brazilian journalist Leo Veras - at his home in Pedro Juan Caballero. That crime led to the creation of the Institutional Security Committee for Journalists in order to provide guarantees for journalists in the face of the rise of the border mafia. The presumed murderer, Waldemar Pereira Rivas, must face trial in the near future.

In March, Congresswoman Cristina Villalba (ANR), during the first session of the year of the House of Representatives, called for a debate on "narco-journalism," pointing to ABC Color journalist Pablo Medina - murdered in 2014 - as "one of the victims." The representative asked: "how much did Pablo Medina get paid, which forced him to be part of a system?" - implying the communicator was involved in drug trafficking. It should be recalled that in 2014 - days after the murder of Medina and his assistant Antonia Almada - prosecutor Javier Díaz Verón reported that Congresswoman Villalba called him to intercede for the then mayor of the town of Ypehu, Vilmar Acosta, who was sentenced in 2017 to 39 years in prison for the double murder - before an arrest warrant was issued or it was made public that he was a suspect.

In March, in a telematic hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court), Ana Morra and Dante Leguizamón - widow and son of journalist Santiago Leguizamón, murdered in 1991 - accused General Andrés Rodríguez, former president of Paraguay, and drug trafficker Fahd Jamil Georges, currently imprisoned in Brazil, as the masterminds. The hearing is part of the process by which the IACHR Court will define the reparation measures to be taken by the Paraguayan State regarding the journalist's murder. The parties must present their final arguments by April 25.