Radio host gunned down in Paraguay

New York, June 24, 2014–Authorities in Paraguay should carry out an efficient investigation into the murder of a radio host and lawyer on Thursday, establish a motive, and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Edgar Pantaleón Fernández Fleitas was shot dead by an assailant who entered his law offices in his home in the northern city of Concepción before fleeing on a motorcycle with a man who waited outside, according to news reports. Fernández, a general practice attorney, had returned home from hosting his radio program “City of Fury” (“Ciudad de la furia”), which aired on weekdays on the community radio station Belén Comunicaciones. The program was harshly critical of local judges, lawyers, and officials in the Attorney General’s office, all of whom the journalist accused of corruption, according to news reports.

In an interview with the radio station Cardinal AM, the district attorney of Concepción, Dora Irrazábal, said she believed Fernández’ murder was related to his comments on the radio program, not to his work as a lawyer.

Minister of the Interior Francisco de Vargas told reporters that no motive had yet been established. On Saturday, authorities arrested an individual they said they suspected of being the gunman, but offered no details regarding a motive, according to news reports.

This is the second killing of a critical Paraguayan radio host in less than six weeks. Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz Garay was killed in Pedro Juan Caballero on May 16. Pedro Juan Caballero and Concepción, near the Brazilian border, are centers of smuggling and organized crime, according to news reports. Concepción is also home to a guerilla group known as the Paraguayan People’s Army or the EPP. The cities are particularly dangerous areas for journalists and radio stations have frequently been used to launch accusations of criminal activity at political rivals, according to CPJ research.

“Paraguay must not let a pattern develop in which critical radio hosts are killed, the motive is never explained, and no one is ever convicted,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We urge authorities to get to the bottom of these murders as soon as possible.”