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CPJ calls for investigation into murder of Paraguayan journalist

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New York, May 19, 2014--Paraguayan authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into the death of a radio journalist who was shot dead on Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz Garay was killed in Pedro Juan Caballero, a city on the border with Brazil, an area that is particularly dangerous for journalists, CPJ research shows.

Alcaraz, 28, who co-hosted a morning show on Radio Amambay called "De frente a la mañana" (Head-on in the morning), was returning home from work in the early afternoon when two unidentified assailants on a motorcycle shot him repeatedly, according to local press reports. The Associated Press reported that Alcaraz was hit by 17 bullets. The suspects fled the scene immediately.

"We are alarmed by the murder of Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz Garay and call on authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and apprehend all those responsible," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior Americas program coordinator. "The Paraguayan border with Brazil is a very dangerous area for the press. Authorities must provide guarantees of safety so that the local media can cover the border area without fear of retribution."  

On his show, Alcaraz often denounced crime and drug trafficking on the Paraguayan border, the Asunción-based daily ABC Color reported. Radio Amambay's owner, Sen. Roberto Acevedo of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party, said Alcaraz used to discuss the illegal activities of local drug traffickers, according to reports. "With this latest crime, no journalist will want to talk about drug dealers, who are all devils," he said. 

Acevedo said the local police are heavily influenced by the drug gangs and that Pedro Juan Caballero "seems more and more like Ciudad Juárez in Mexico," according to news reports.

In a statement published on the Interior Ministry's website, Minister Francisco de Vargas dismissed Acevedo's statement as "too broad." He said the authorities had launched a probe and were investigating at least two suspects, one of whom was found dead on Saturday in Amambay.

CPJ research shows that journalists who report on drug trafficking or local corruption in Paraguayan border towns have been victims of violent reprisal. Radio reporter Tito Alberto Palma was shot to death in the southeastern border town of Mayor Otaño in 2007. Paraguay's eastern border with Brazil--where smuggling includes not only drugs but cigarettes, fuel, clothes, and electronics--is also particularly dangerous, CPJ research shows.

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