Report to the Midyear Meeting 2023
April, 25-27

New revelations about corruption and a complex panorama ahead of the presidential elections on April 30 marked this period.

The annual report on human rights of the United States Department of State highlighted that politicians and authorities used the laws on defamation and slander to retaliate against journalists and gave an example of the complaints of former Deputy Minister of Taxation Marta González against the newspaper ABC Color.

The report also denounces the sexual harassment against women journalists, as evidenced by the denunciations of the communicator Carlos Granada and the harassment campaign against the journalist Menchi Barriocanal.

The US Embassy declared in July that President Horacio Cartes and Vice President Hugo Velázquez were "significantly corrupt" and sanctioned for their "involvement in systematic corruption that has undermined democratic institutions."

In February, the communicator Alex Álvarez (39), from Radio Urundey FM, was riddled with bullets in his car by a man on a motorcycle in Pedro Juan Caballero. The case demonstrates the growing threat and the advance of organized crime in the informative work.

In this context, in a historic ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights notified the State in December of its sentence as responsible for violating human rights in the case of the murder of journalist Santiago Leguizamón, which occurred in April 1991 in Pedro Juan Caballero. The ruling also calls for strengthening the work of the Roundtable for the Safety of Journalists, allocating a fund to finance protection and assistance programs for journalists who are victims of violence, and promoting the approval of a bill on freedom of expression, protection of journalists, press workers, and human rights defenders.

Other important cases:

In October, judge Carlos Hermosilla sentenced journalist Marcos Velázquez to one year and six months in prison. Velázquez was sued in 2020 by the president of the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol), Alejandro Domínguez, for slander, libel, and defamation, for some tweets from 2019 where the communicator accused him of corruption and questioned his management at the head of Conmebol.

In November, Senator Blas Lanzoni (PLRA), head of the Senate Human Rights Commission, presented a bill to protect journalists and human rights defenders.

In January, Radio Cáritas denounced that it had received "a serious threat against the integrity of the institution's members" by telephone.

In February, journalist Pedro Escobar, from Radio Nacional 920 AM, reported to the authorities that he was verbally and physically assaulted by the mayor of Puerto Casado, Hilario Adorno (ANR).

In March, journalist Judith María Vera denounced that she had suffered physical abuse and had a broken rib after being detained by police officers in the middle of a demonstration in front of the Municipality of San Pedro de Ycuamandyú.

The Amambay Criminal Court of Appeal annulled the ruling that had acquitted Waldemar Pereira Rivas, alias Cachorrao, in November, detained by the Prosecutor's Office as the alleged perpetrator of the murder of journalist Leo Veras, which occurred in February 2020 in Pedro Juan Caballero. With the ruling, a new oral trial is arranged. Pereira Rivas is a fugitive and has a national and international arrest warrant.

In April, the oral and public trial against Juan Vera, president of the Association of Users and Consumers of Paraguay (Asucop), sued by the communicator Menchi Barriocanal for infringing privacy, began.

The defamation lawsuit by Marta González, former vice minister, continues against Natalia Zuccolillo and the journalist Juan Carlos Lezcano Flecha, from ABC Color, for publications in 2019 about acts of corruption. Although Zuccolillo appealed the sentence, a judge imposed a fine and the publication of the sentence. The plaintiff filed more complaints for other publications on acts of corruption against Zuccolillo and Lezcano, but in those cases, they were acquitted of defamation.

The IAPA denounced these demands as judicial harassment against press freedom.

On April 26, Journalists' Day, the Union of Journalists of Paraguay (SPP), the office of the Human Rights Coordinator, and other civil society organizations presented before the Senate the bill "For the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders." The initiative promotes the creation of a protection mechanism to prevent, protect, procure justice, and guarantee the life, integrity, freedom, and security of all those persons, groups, and communities at risk due to the exercise of journalism, press work, freedom of expression or the defense and promotion of human rights.