Paraguayan journalist Eduardo González died on March 12, 2017, from complications relating to injuries he sustained the year prior.
González was found unconscious with injuries to his head, neck, and back on the side of the Ruta Granero al Sur highway in Paraguay’s southern Itapúa state on March 2, 2016, the Paraguay daily ABC Color reported. The journalist had been traveling by motorcycle from the town of Fram to Carmen del Paraná, his home city, according to the paper.
The journalist did not regain consciousness after the attack, and spent a year in the hospital unable to move or speak, ABC Color reported.
Local authorities’ initial reports suggested that González’s injuries were the result of a traffic accident.
“The investigation did not find signs that the vehicle had braked or that it was hit by another vehicle,” Chief of Police Juan Barua said in an interview with online channel Itapúa en Noticias, which was published on YouTube in March 2016. “We presume that this person [González] came at a high velocity and the motorcycle fell. It skidded over the asphalt for various meters,” he added.
González’s family and colleagues called for further investigation, according to press reports. The journalist’s father, Carlos González, told Paraguayan press after his son’s death in March 2017 that he believes his son was murdered.
ABC Color reported in July 2016 that no damage was found to the motorcycle and raised doubts about whether the injuries were the result of a traffic accident.
Police had previously arrested González on charges the journalist said were retaliation for his reporting.
In September 2014, Fram police arrested González and charged him with drug possession and trafficking after allegedly finding six balls of crack cocaine in his bag, according to a report in ABC Noticias from the time of the arrest. González said that police had planted the drugs on him in reprisal for his reporting with the radio station Trigal F.M., according to the report. Three days prior to his arrest, González had reported on cattle rustling, according to an interview the journalist gave to the news website Itapúa en Noticias which was published on YouTube in June 2015.
After González spent a year in house arrest, a local judge dismissed the charges, according to a separate ABC Color report.
José Miguel González, the ABC Color correspondent in Itapúa and president of the Association of Periodistas in the South (APESUR) told CPJ that, a week before Eduardo González was found unconscious, the radio reporter said that he had agreed to informally settle with police for 50 million guaranis (US$9,000) in lieu of filing suit against them for wrongful arrest.
The ABC Color correspondent said that he believed that Eduardo González was killed so that police could be rid of the case without paying. José Miguel González added that González had continued reporting on the collusion between police and cattle thieves on his radio program after he was released from house arrest.
The national police station in Fram did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment in December 2017.
After González’s death, Edward Irala, the assistant prosecutor in Itapúa, told journalists during a press conference that the investigation into the circumstances under which González appeared unconscious on the roadside was still open after his death in March 2017.
Irala said that prosecutors were also investigating the possibility that González was planning to file a wrongful arrest suit against the Fram police officers who had charged him with drug crimes, according to a video of the press conference from Itapúa en Noticias on YouTube.