Cándido Figueredo Ruíz works for ABC Color, one of Paraguay’s largest national dailies, and reports from Pedro Juan Caballero, a small town on the border with Brazil. The journalist, who has lived under 24-hour police protection for more than two decades, says he has lost track of the number of death threats he has received for covering organized crime and drug trafficking, two of the most dangerous beats in Latin America.
In a video interview, Figueredo described how living under threat and with security guards for so many years has turned him into a prisoner in his own house, with little ability to socialize or maintain friendships. “It’s like living in jail,” Figueredo told John Otis, CPJ’s Andes correspondent, in 2014.
The porous border between Paraguay and Brazil is known for harboring smugglers who deal everything from cocaine and marijuana to cigarettes, guns, and electronics. The region has a history of lawlessness and contraband activities. Figueredo’s coverage of drug trafficking, contraband, and the collusion between politicians and drug traffickers has made him one of the most respected journalists in Paraguay.
In 2012, police officials confirmed that they had intercepted a phone call between two criminal figures who discussed killing Figueredo. Authorities believed the threats stemmed from a series of articles the journalist published in ABC Color that investigated secret tunnels used for smuggling drugs on the Brazilian side of the border, the daily reported. After the articles were published, the local Brazilian police’s anti-drug unit destroyed the tunnels and arrested several people involved in the trafficking.
CPJ research shows that at least five journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work in Paraguay since 1992, when the organization began keeping records. Recently, there has been a dramatic surge in violence against journalists in the country. At least three were killed in reprisal for their work in Paraguay in 2014, including another border reporter for ABC Color, Pablo Medina Velázquez, who was shot to death that October. Medina had received numerous death threats in response to his coverage of drug trafficking on the border. In March 2015, Paraguayan radio journalist Gerardo Ceferino Servían was shot to death in a small town on Brazilian side of the border.
None of the masterminds behind these killings have been convicted, judicial officials told CPJ. This climate of impunity increases the risks for journalists and leads to self-censorship, CPJ research shows.
While Figueredo has become more cautious as a result of the constant threats that he receives, he still reports on sensitive issues and denounces wrongdoing. His work has helped shine a light on press freedom violations in the dangerous border region.
The text of Cándido Figueredo Ruíz’s acceptance speech, as prepared for delivery, is below. For the Spanish-language version of the speech as prepared for delivery, click here.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen!
It is a great honor for me to be here this evening and receive CPJ´s International Press Freedom Award.
I am thankful to CPJ for this recognition and for supporting me throughout the very difficult times that we have experienced over the last 20 years, during the course of our struggle for reporting the truth from a border that is considered a cocaine, weapons, and marijuana corridor to Brazil and from there to many other regions of the world.
This recognition by the Committee to Protect Journalists carries huge significance for me, because it is the first and only award conferred upon me, and comes despite the fact that none of my news reports ever entered any contest to obtain an award.
I have never submitted my reports to any journalistic contest, because I believe that what I´m doing is my duty and my obligation as a journalist who is committed to the truth: exposing the climate of corruption, the narcopolitics, and the drug trafficking which in my country have caused so many deaths that have largely been forgotten.
I would also like to thank my publishers, editors-in-chief, and section editors, as well as all my colleagues at my daily newspaper ABC Color, for letting me keep practicing this “insane” profession that I feel so passionate about.
Finally, I would like to say that many of my colleagues deserved to be here receiving this honor more than I do. I ask you to allow me to mention the names of some of my nation´s brave journalists who offered their lives as the voice of the voiceless in my homeland, Paraguay:
Santiago Leguizamón (1991), Calixto Mendoza (1997), Salvador Medina (2001), Samuel Román (2004), Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz (2014), Gerardo Servían (2015), and my dear colleague Pablo Medina (2014).
On behalf of all of them and all the journalists around the world, who with many sacrifices and despite threats keep doing this fascinating job that we carry in our blood like a virus: reporting the truth and demanding a better future for our peoples and nations.
Once again, many thanks to CPJ for its ongoing support, which makes us feel that, despite being in a remote corner of this world, we are not alone in our duty to report the news. Many thanks to you all!
- Paraguay is South America’s poorest nation and one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International.
- Pedro Juan Caballero and other Paraguayan border cities have become havens for smugglers of everything from cocaine and marijuana to cigarettes and electronics.
- Since 1992, at least five journalists have been killed in Paraguay in direct relation to their work, CPJ research shows.
Acribillan a siete hombres en Capitán Bado
Asesinan a ex candidato colorado que denunció a hermano del gobernador
Asesinan a tiros a presidente de seccional colorada de Pedro Juan
Acribillan a un poderoso capomafioso fronterizo
Jamil detalla vínculos con los Acevedo
Documentos confirman vínculo de los hermanos Acevedo con el clan Yamil
Medio brasileño vuelve a involucrar a senador con el narcotráfico
Paraguayan journalist targeted by criminal groups
Reporting with bodyguards on the Paraguayan border
CPJ’s reporting on Paraguay
More on the Awards
The ceremony • Awardees: Cándido Figueredo Ruíz, Paraguay • Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, Syria • Zone 9 Bloggers, Ethiopia • Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (“Zunar”) – Malaysia • Kathy Gannon, Benjamin Award