Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Paraguay
As of December 31, 1998

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A new penal code that took effect at the end of November could pose major obstacles to the functioning of a free press. The government now has the right to confiscate "written publications" that are being investigated for unspecified "illegal" activities. Another provision of the code prohibits filming, photographing, or recording the voice of any person -- including politicians -- without his or her consent. The Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP) has denounced the new laws and questioned their constitutionality.

The SPP also publicly protested when President Raúl Cubas Grau, who took office in August, restricted access for journalists assigned to cover the presidential palace. While Cubas said the action was taken for security reasons, he later reversed the policy after journalists described the move as a deliberate attempt to impede their work.

Comments made by former coup leader Gen. Lino Oviedo in December, in which he accused media owners of being "corrupt" and "not paying taxes," have raised concerns about the military's tolerance for free expression. Oviedo, who was sentenced to a 10-year jail term for his role in an aborted 1996 coup against then-President Carlos Wasmosy, was pardoned by Cubas in August. Cubas and Oviedo are political allies in the ruling Colorado Party. Oviedo made the critical remarks about the press in December, soon after the Paraguayan Supreme Court ruled that he return to jail. Oviedo has refused to comply with the Supreme Court order, raising the specter of a constitutional crisis.
Attacks on the Press in Paraguay in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
02/02/98 Radio Uno Legal Action

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