August 25, 2000
His Excellency Luis González Macchi
President of the Republic of Paraguay
VIA FACSIMILE: 011-595-21-450-025
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about press-freedom violations in Paraguay since the August 13 vice-presidential elections. In the tense climate that followed the elections, several Paraguayan journalists have been attacked and threatened, according to CPJ sources and local press reports.
On the afternoon of August 13, a mysterious radio signal interfered with the frequency of the Asunción-based radio station Radio Primero de Marzo. Moments before the station was to broadcast a political program announcing the results of its exit polls, unidentified voices speaking in the Guaraní language threatened to blow up its transmitting equipment and to “disappear” the program’s host, who is a vocal critic of Your Excellency’s government. The rogue signal remained on the air for about an hour and a half, according to CPJ sources in Paraguay.
On August 15, supporters of the ruling Colorado Party attacked the Asunción-based radio station Radio Ñandutí, according to local press reports. On their way to a protest demonstration in front of the Superior Court for Electoral Justice (TSJE), they threw stones and bottles at Radio Ñandutí’s offices. Local sources have told CPJ that Radio Ñandutí was one of only a few local media that predicted Liberal party candidate Julio César Franco’s victory in the vice-presidential race, which was announced yesterday, July 24.
Apparently, followers of Colorado Party candidate Félix Argaña, son of former vice-president Luis María Argaña, who was gunned down in Asunción in March, 1999, took issue with Radio Ñandutí’s exit polls, which suggested that Franco was leading.
We are also very concerned about the brutal and apparently premeditated assault on Elizabeth Palma, a reporter with the television station Canal 9. Palma was run over on August 17 by a vehicle driven by Calixto Arguello, security chief for then-Comptroller of the Republic Daniel Fretes, who is mired in a corruption scandal (he currently faces trial on 19 separate counts of corruption during his time in office.) Local press reports suggested that Arguello ran over Palma in order to discourage her and other journalists from questioning Fretes, who was leaving the Comptroller’s Office building at the time.
As a result of the attack, Palma suffered a pelvis fracture and back injuries. The journalist is currently at home, where she will be immobilized for a month. CPJ sources fear this attack will go unpunished as long as Arguello remains at the Comptroller’s Office.
We urge Your Excellency to investigate these attacks and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Finally, we call on you to ensure that all Paraguayan journalists may cover the news without fear of violent reprisals for their work.
Ann K. Cooper