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A journalist is grabbed by a police officer during protests Asuncion, Paraguay, on July 23, 2019. At least four journalists were injured during the protest, and one was allegedly groped by a demonstrator. (AFP/Norberto Duarte)

Journalists shot with rubber bullets, groped while covering Paraguay protest

July 25, 2019 12:50 PM ET

Miami, July 25, 2019 -- Paraguay authorities should thoroughly investigate attacks against journalists at a protest in Asunción and take measures to ensure that journalists can cover protests without being injured or assaulted, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On July 23, during a protest by taxi drivers in Asunción, the capital, police fired rubber bullet pellets at a crowd, hitting at least two journalists, Fernando Riveros of newspaper publisher Grupo Nación and Jorge Escurra of TV broadcaster C9N Paraguay, according to news reports and posts on social media by their employers.

Angélica Giménez of broadcaster GEN and Sergio Daniel Riveros of newspaper Ultima Hora were also injured during the protest, according to a statement by local press freedom group Forum of Paraguayan Journalists and the Association of Graphic Reporters in Paraguay.

Reporter Dalma Benítez of Radio Urbana 106.9 FM reported being groped and harassed by a taxi driver participating in the protest, according to press reports and an interview with Benítez posted online by her employer.

"Paraguay police should ensure the safety of the press during protests, not use force against them; and authorities should hold the police to account if journalists are injured," said CPJ South and Central America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. "The groping and harassment of journalist Dalma Benítez highlights the challenges faced by female journalists and the need for all authorities to send the message that sexual violence of any kind is not tolerated."

Police fired rubber bullets that hit Fernando Riveros in his leg and Escurra in his face and arm, according to reports. The rubber pellets caused more than a dozen sores on Riveros' leg, and he received treatment for his wounds, as seen in a post by his employer on Twitter. CPJ could not confirm the extent of Escurra's injuries.

Giménez fell during the clashes and received a blow to her head, she told local radio broadcaster HOY in an interview, saying that National Police officers assisted her and helped her get medical assistance.

Sergio Daniel Riveros was hit with a bottle in his ribs, according to a report by his employer. CPJ could not confirm the extent of his injuries.

In her interview, Benítez said that a demonstrator groped her breasts while she was reporting, calling the act "disgusting and disgraceful" and admonishing the police for not intervening. "I was [broadcasting] live and went into shock. I kept tearing up while reporting," Benítez said, adding that other demonstrators responded by saying that she lacked what it took to be a journalist.

According to press reports, Benítez filed a complaint after the incident, and the prosecutor's office has opened an investigation and summoned a suspect to appear for an interview.

CPJ emailed the National Police of Paraguay and the prosecutor's office for comment, but did not receive any response.

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