THE RIGHT OF FREEDOM OF OPINION OF THE EXPRESSION AND DISSEMINATION OF IDEAS
A. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
Article IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man acknowledges that “Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever.”
In turn, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated in developing the concept of freedom of expression that it consists of “the right to transmit events and ideas through any means of social communication; but, on the other hand, freedom also demands the right for everyone to receive information without interference of any kind:1
Enlarging on those concepts, the Commission added:
The interdependence of the American peoples calls for greater understanding among them. For this to be achieved, freely circulated information about ideas and news is indispensable. To accomplish those ends, the means of information have to be free from any kind of pressure or imposition, and those who make use of the information media assume a heavy responsibility toward public opinion and must therefore report the true facts faithfully.
Freedom of expression is universal, and its concept embodies the legal right of all persons, individually or collectively, to express, transmit and disseminate their thoughts; parallel and correlative thereto, freedom to become informed is also universal, and entails the collective right of individuals to receive the information communicated to them by others without any interference that might distort it.2
One point that the Committee has repeatedly stressed is that freedom of expression cannot be fully exercised if there is an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, such as is generated by the protracted state of siege. Under these circumstances, says the Commission, freedom of expression cannot develop genuinely, nor can citizens become adequately informed. This in turn helps to create conditions under which other human rights are violated.
In the specific case of Paraguay, freedom of expression and opinion, especially when exercised through freedom of the press, becomes singularly important, for it may—as has been the case on certain periods of Paraguay’s recent history—provide the means of reporting news which could help to correct abuses on the part of the authorities. This possibility of political power, an absence of truly independent institutions and the importance of the legislative and judicial branches to monitor and control the executive branch.
In this chapter the Commission will examine the legal system applicable to the freedoms of opinion and expression in Paraguay and the situation of the various current means of communication, with special reference to certain specific restrictions placed on Paraguayan communications media and journalists.
B. THE LEGAL STRUCTURE
Article 71 of the 1967 Paraguayan Constitution addresses freedom of expression and thought in the following terms:
Freedom of thought and of opinion are guaranteed on equal terms to all inhabitants of the republic. It is forbidden to preach hatred or class struggle among Paraguayans, or to defend crime or violence. The laws may be criticized freely, but no one may proclaim disobedience to their provisions.
The articles that follow regulate this right in the manner indicated below:
Article 72. Freedom of expression and of information without prior censorship are inviolable, and no law shall be enacted that limits such freedom or prevents it except in matters connected with the prohibitions contained in the preceding article. In time of war, information on matters relating to the security of the republic and national defense may be censored.
Article 73. Journalism in any of its forms may be practiced freely. Press organs lacking responsible direction shall not be permitted, nor shall the publication of immoral subject matter be allowed.
Article 74. No person or enterprise that publishes a newspaper and no radio or television broadcasting station may receive a subsidy of public or private funds from abroad without authorization by the government.
Article 75. In suits brought on account of publications of any nature that may affect the honor, reputation, or dignity of individuals and that refer to offenses subject to private penal action, or to acts of private conduct that this Constitution and the law declare to be exempt from the authority of the magistrates, evidence of the truth or of the notoriety of such acts shall not be admissible. Such evidence shall be admitted when the suit is brought because of the publication of criticism of the official conduct of public functionaries, and in the other cases expressly provided by law.
Despite the constitutional guarantees cited, exercise of the freedoms of opinion and of expression and dissemination of thought have met with serious legal obstacles stemming from the general legal situation described in Chapter I. The restriction included in Article 71—that it if forbidden “ to preach hatred or class struggle among Paraguayans, or to defend crime or violence”—has been repeatedly used by the Government to silence simple statements of disagreement by the opposition. The same result has been achieved through the prohibition on proclaiming disobedience to the provisions of the laws. These provisions have in turn served as a basis for clearly repressive legislation.
Laws 294 of 1955 and 209 of 1970 place especially important restrictions on the exercise of those rights. Article 8 of Law 294 provides that if any of the crimes punishable by that law on the “Defense of Democracy” are committed “by the press, radio broadcasting stations, or news and information agencies, the services of those responsible will be suspended for a period of one to six months. In the event of a repetition or recurrence it will be closed, without prejudice to the legal penalty to which the guilty party or parties might be liable. Any books, leaflets, newspapers and other printed matter involved will be confiscated.”
In turn, Law 209 of 1970 on “Defense of Public Order and Freedom of Individuals” contains provision that because they are excessively vague and general may constitute—and in fact have already done so—serious restrictions on the freedoms of expression and opinion. Such is the case of its Article 4, which stipulates one to six years in the penitentiary for anyone who “through any means shall publicly preach hatred among Paraguayans or destruction of the social classes.”
The text of Article 8 of Law 209 (1970) is even more draconian. The crime of opinion is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment for anyone “who introduces, prints, stores, distributes or sells leaflets, magazines, posters, newspapers, move or television films about the doctrine or system… of any communist party or organization whose goal is to destroy the republic democratic regime of the Nation.”
If the authoritarian nature of the Paraguayan regime has ever been evident, it is precisely because of the severe restraints it has placed on the exercise of the freedoms of expression and thought. Such restrictions, as will be seen in the following paragraphs, not only appear in the legislation cited, but have existed in practice as well.
C. DE FACTO SITUATION OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA
To understand the current status of the freedoms of expression in Paraguayan practice, it is important to note that most of the communications media are owned by people with close ties—including those of kinship—to President Stroessner, or those who at least conform to the present regime. As will be seen later, although there have been, and still are, dissident media, they have suffered persecution making the free exercise of independent journalism extremely difficult.
As to the written press, after the “ABC Color” newspaper was shut down in August of 1984, and with the closing of “La Tribuna” as well, the only four major daily newspapers currently published in Asunción are “Ultima Hora,” “Hoy,” “Diario Noticias,” and “La Patria.” Except for the first—which has an independent line and sporadically prints items containing criticism of the Government—the others have family connections with President Stroessner or, as in the case of “La Patria,” are official organs of the Government’s Partido Colorado.
The only printed media that disagree with the regime are the Partido Revolucionario Febrerista weekly newspaper and “Sendero,” published twice a month by the Catholic Church. Their circulation, however, is relatively limited.
Another in that category is the monthly “Nuestro Tiempo,” whose editor is the Bishop of Chaco, Monsignor Medina. Published in Foz de Iguazu, Brazil, it is therefore subject to the restrictions of circulation of foreign publications. Special authorization is required for their entry into the country, and the permit is usually refused for any publication containing articles or information not acceptable to the Government.
There are approximately fifty radio stations in Paraguay. Except for Radio CHARITAS, which belong to the Catholic Church, Radio Primero de Marzo, and (until January 1987) radio Ñandutí, all of them belong to the Government party or to persons connected with the regime. Accordingly, their information and comments are generally favorable to the Government and do not reflect the viewpoints of opposition groups.
At present there are only two television stations in Paraguay. One is owned by the State and the owner of the other is closely affiliated with the present regime. Its news programs are carefully self-censored, and do not include any information or comments that might be unfavorable to the Government.
The ownership of the communications media—mainly concentrated in the hands of persons close to the President—and the serious difficulties met by the independent or dissident press explain the pervading climate of self-imposed censorship that generally characterizes mass communications media in Paraguay.
It must be added that, particularly after April 1983, there was a strong resurgence of government oppression of independent media operators, with illegal arrest, detention or harassment of journalists and closing of newspapers and radio stations. The most drastic instances were the closure of the “ABC Color” newspaper and suspension of Radio Ñandutí broadcasts.
D. THE “ABC COLOR” CASE
The indefinite closure of “ABC Color” is possibly the most flagrant instance of violation of freedom o expression and opinion, for this was the country’s most important newspaper. It had a daily circulation of 75,000 copies, which rose to almost 100,000 on Sundays.
On March 16, 1948, its director, Aldo Zucolillo was arrested for refusing to reveal the name of the reporter whose article quoted some antigovernment statements made by MOPOCO party leader Miguel Angel González Casabianca. Then on March 22, the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Sabino A. Montanaro, ordered publication of the daily ABC Color to be suspended for an indefinite period starting that very day.
The Minister of the Interior invoked the constitutional and legal provisions that expressly forbid anyone “to preach hatred or class struggle among Paraguayans,” and “the defend crime or violence” and state disobedience to their provisions.” This draconian step was predicted on the premise that the Diario ABC Color had “systematically and knowingly violated the precepts of the Magna Carta in its zeal to subvert public order, jeopardizing the peace of the Republic and the stability of its institutions with its daily harangues of seditious opinions, either in its editorials or as the permanent spokesman for irregular political groups that have not legal or institutional base, thus fostering a state of confusion and disquiet in the mind of the public and giving rise to social alarm.” The newspaper was still closed at the time the present report was approved.
The indefinite closure of ABC Color was followed by other measures adopted by the Government that clearly revealed its unmistakable intention to prevent future reappearance of this important newspaper. Those tactics included dismantling of the AZETA publishing firm, also owned by Aldo Zucolillo, and a ban on other publications of that company, such as the sports magazine “Extra Deportivo” and the “Suplemento Educacional” for children, shut down by the Government “for reasons of internal security.”
The indefinite closure of ABC Color was reported in a claim to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which thereupon opened Case Nº 9250. In the pertinent resolution, adopted on May 17, 1984, the Commission considered indefinite suspension of the ABC Color newspaper-—n the absence of any substantiation of the accusations presented against it, and with no opportunity given to its representatives to defend themselves-—o represent a serious violation of the provisions in the American Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Man concerning the rights to freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination of ideas, as well as that of the right to due process of law.
In that resolution, the Commission recommended that the Government of Paraguay rescind the Ministry of the Interior’s resolution 227 of March 22, 1984 and observe laws currently in force by allowing unrestricted printing and distribution of the ABC Color daily newspaper.
E. THE CASE OF RADIO ÑANDUTÍ
One of the cases that best illustrates the adverse conditions for the exercise of the freedoms of expression and opinion is that of Radio Ñandutí, which habitually included news items and comments criticizing the Government in its broadcasts.
From 1983 until its temporary shut down in January 1987, Radio Ñandutí was the object of harassment and other tactics constituting a clear violation of the rights discussed in this chapter, such as the following:
On July 9, 1983, the Ministry of the Interior ordered the station to be closed for a period of 30 days. On September 22, its program entitled “SUPERONDA” was canceled and the station manager, Mr. Humberto Rubín, was forbidden to take part in his programs. This measure remained effect until November 19, 1983. But on November 5, 1984 he was forbidden to speak on radio programs in general.
On January 17, 1984 Mr. Humberto Rubín was ordered to appear before the Director of the National Telecommunications Administration (ANTELCO), Mr. Angel Barbosa, who warned him not to broadcasts news of groups that were not officially authorized political parties. An ANTELCO order, in the form of Resolution Nº 1009 of August 9, 1985, closed the station once more, this time for a period of 10 days. Humberto Rubín was again arrested on December 3, 1985 and held for a few hours at the Central Police Station in Asunción, where he was warned by the Director of the Public Order Department, Mr. Carlos Schrieber, that unless he changed his editorial outlook he would be expelled from the country. The radio station was again closed early in January 1986, for a period of 15 days, accused of helping create “public discord.”
In April 1986, Humberto Rubín accused the police of refusing him protection, despite repeated death threats against him, the members of his immediate family, and coworkers at the radio station. Official spokesmen had previously accused Radio Ñandutí of responsibility for street demonstrations that had taken place in the capital in the preceding few weeks. Early on the morning of April 30, a mob of some fifty Government sympathizers attacked the façade of the radio station building, throwing stones, shooting firearms into the air, and breaking almost all of the outside windows. On May 3, a group of five armed and hooded individuals again attacked the radio station, this time destroying its plant and transmitting equipment and stealing a part thereof. Two days later the station’s communications facilities were cut off, with all of its telephones disconnected.
Later on, the station began to be the object of a series of interruptions resulting from “radio interference” that became increasingly louder until it drowned out more than 90% of its broadcasts. It was also forbidden to transmit information or comments criticizing the Government.
On the other hand, and according to reports received by the Commission, Government authorities began to put pressure on a number of businessmen to force them to withdraw their support by canceling their advertising. Toward the end of May 1986, the pro-Government program entitled “The Voice of the Colorado Party” (aired throughout the country from Mondays through Saturdays) began to read the list of Radio Ñandutí advertisers, some of whom gave in to this type of blackmail canceled their contract with Ñandutí.
Finally, on January 14, 1987, Radio Ñandutí Director Humberto Rubín announced his decision to cease broadcasting, given the lack of guarantees on the part of the Paraguayan authorities, whom he accused of evincing no interest or willingness to solve the problems of which he had complained. This had brought the station to the brink of bankruptcy, to the point where it was economically impossible to continue its operation. He was therefore announcing the temporary suspension of its broadcasts, trusting that justice would be done and that at some future time he would be given the requisite guarantees to resume operations.
The Commission was apprised of these events and opened a file on cast Nº 9642, adopting a resolution on March 28, 987.
In that resolution, the Commission states that neither the administrative nor the judicial authorities of Paraguay—either because of inaction or inefficient procedures—have yet been able to identify, much less punish, any of the culprits in the attacks and arbitrary acts suffered by Radio Ñandutí, thus leaving the company legally defenseless as well as bankrupting it and compelling it to close temporarily.
The Government of Paraguay has formulated its observations on the Commission’s resolution, and in due course the IACHR will approve a final resolution in the case.
F. ADDITIONAL SUSPENSIONS AND SHUTDOWNS OF MASS MEDIA
In addition to the ABC Color newspaper and Radio Ñandutí cases just described, the Paraguayan Government has used existing legislation in the last few years for temporary of final suspension of other mass media. Some examples appear below:
On June 18, 1979, Minister of the Interior, Dr. Sabino Montanaro, issued Resolution Nº 435, ordering a 30-day suspension of the Ultima Hora and La Tribuna newspapers. The vague nature of the accusations leveled against these two papers, in which no criminal conduct is cited, is evident in the text of the preambular paragraphs transcribed here:
For some time now, the “Ultima Hora” and “La Tribuna” newspapers, in addition to their biased and profit-motivated criticism of governmental decisions and high state officials, have created a loss of morale and confusion in the public mind by means of the sensational printing of false and tendentious news:
Moreover, high dignitaries of the Nation have on numerous occasion been slandered and defamed, made to appear ridiculous and not given the respect due their positions as custodians of the common weal;
It is undeniable that by publishing international news focusing on dramatic incidents in other nations featuring a malicious mode of expression and absurd comparisons, the editors of those newspapers are trying to create an atmosphere of panic, anguish and tension in the public mind; …
In 1980, Radio Itapirú was suspended for on e month for broadcasting news items about the assassination of General Somoza, which aroused the anger of the Government. In October of that year as well, publication and distribution of the “El Pueblo del Partido Febrerista” weekly were banned until July 1982.
La República newspaper was closed on December 30, 1980 upon orders from the Minister of the Interior for “attempting to destabilize the Government.” It has not been reopened.
In 1981, the Liberal Party’s weekly newspaper “El Enano” was temporarily shut down and has not yet resumed publication.
On December 26, 1985 the Government suspended the weekly “Aquí,” which specialized in the publication of police news. The reason given was that the magazine was morbid. Later on this weekly, the oldest in Paraguay, with a circulation of 25,000, was closed permanently.
G. ARRESTS, DETENTIONS, HARASSMENT, AND EXPULSION OF JOURNALISTS
Another serious restraint placed in practice on the freedom of expression and opinion in Paraguay has been the series of frequent arrests, detentions, harassment and expulsions of journalists and mass media owners. Needless to say, such measures have had an intimidating effect that is largely responsible for keeping the media from performing its function of publishing and discussing the news freely and objectively. As a result, most of them have opted for self-censorship.
On November 5, 1979 Alcibíades González del Valle, and ABC Color columnist, was arrested and held incommunicado until December 21, 1979. He was detained again on July 25, 1980 by court order, and kept in the Tacumbú prison until September 2, 1980.
ABC Color newspaperman Héctor Rodríguez was detained on February 29, 1980 and kept under arrest until September 2, 1980.
On October 30, 1980, Chilean newsman Rafael Melia La Torre, a reporter for “Hoy” newspaper, was detained and held under arrest for three months at the Investigation Department, where he alleges that he was tortured. He was then transferred to the Guardia de Seguridad prison and confined to a 1 x 3 meter cell, under provisions of the state of siege (Art. 79 of the 1967 Constitution). Finally, in June 1984, charges were presented against him pursuant to Law 209 of 1978 on “Defense of the Public Peace and Freedom of Individuals” for having taken pictures of the assassination of General Somoza. He was then transferred to Tacumbú prison to await trial.
Hoy newspaperman Hernando Sevilla was detained on February 6, 1981 and kept under arrest incommunicado for a year and a half. He also claims that he was tortured while in prison.
On February 20, 1981, La Tribuna editor Juan Andrés Cardozo was arrested.
In March 1981, Rolando Chaparro, a journalist for the newspaper Hoy, was arrested. Another reporter, Félix Ruiz, managed to escape to Brazil as the police searched for him.
On November 26, 1981 Félix Humberto Paiva, a journalist of the paper Ultima Hora, was arrested and held in jail until December 2, 1981.
Ultima Hora director Fernando Cazenave was detained on November 26, 1981 and kept under arrest until December 24, when he was released.
On August 17, 1982, Hoy reporter Hernando Sevilla, who had been in prison since February 1981, was expelled from the country, without any charges ever having been made against him.
On April 9, 1983, Uruguayan newspaperman José María Orlando, an advisor of the ABC Color daily newspaper, was expelled from the country. The same fate overtook a reporter from Brazil’s “O Estado de Sao Paulo,” who had come to Asunción to write about the siege laid to ABC Color.
ABC Color newsman Gustavo Codas was forced to take refuge in the Venezuelan Embassy and leave the country in June 1983 while the police were looking for him to arrest him.
On June 6, 1983 about a dozen graphic artists and printers from the Litocolor printing company were arrested and held for 48 hours. The firm published the Nueva Línea journal of the Catholic University’s sociology department, which was closed at the time.
On July 15, ABC Color editor Aldo Zucolillo was arrested and incarcerated for 15 days in the Tacumbú prison.
In September 1983, Raquel Rojas of “Hoy” newspaper was arrested and held for two months at the Buen Pastor prison.
Journalist Alcibíades González del Valle was arrested for the third time on September 23, 1983. This time he was kept semi-incommunicado until December 8, 1983 at the Investigation Department.
Jesús Ruiz Neszoza, ABC newspaperman, was arrested on December 20, 1983 and remained incommunicado in the Investigation Department until December 24, 1983.
Another ABC Color staff member, Héctor Guerin, was arrested on December 31, 1983. Held incommunicado at the Third Police Station until January 2, 1984; he was then released.
Radio Ñandutí director, Humberto Rubín, was taken to the Investigation Department for questioning on January 17, 1984, and was held there for several hours.
As noted earlier, Aldo Zucolillo, director of ABC Color, was again detained on March 16, 1984, and remained under arrest for 11 days at the Investigation Department.
The former director of the weekly newspaper “El Pueblo,” publicity organ of the Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, Juan José Ríos, was detained on April 10, 1985 and remained under arrest at the Army Escort Batallion Barracks until his release on May 27, 1985. Apparently the reason for his arrest was that he was loading party propaganda in his truck, despite the fact that this is one of the parties legally recognized by the Government.
Edwin Brítez, a reporter for the weekly magazine Nuestro Tiempo—published in Brazil under the direction of Catholic Bishop Monsignor Malario Medina—was arrested at his home on July 16, 1985 and taken to the Investigation Department and held until the following day when he was released. Similarly, five months later, Francisco Barboza was arrested as he was entering Paraguay via Ciudad Stroessner because he was carrying several copies of Nuestro Tiempo. Held incommunicado for two days, November 4 and 5, 1985, he was warned by the government authorities that the next time he “might be imprisoned for several years” if he continued to bring the magazine into Paraguay.
In addition to the past detentions of ABC Color director Aldo Zucolillo, he was picked up again on November 4, 1985 upon his return from New York. He had just received Columbia University’s Maria Moore Cabot journalism award for his contribution to freedom of the press. According to the Government’s official communique, the statements he had made in accepting the prize constituted an incitement to subversion as a means of changing the country’s political structure. Police Chief General Francisco Brites Borges, for his part, “advised” Zucolillo to leave the country if he did not agree with President Stroessner’s Government.
In the course of 1986, attacks on and harassment of the press were stepped up. Nicolás Arguello and Miguel Angel Arguello, of la Tarde newspaper and Radio Ñandutí, respectively, were beaten as they covered a demonstration by law students at the National University on April 24, 1986. The same thing happened to newsmen Osvaldo Fonseca and Roberto Bazán of Television Channel 13 and Martin Ciccano of the Diario de Noticias during another act of protest by the same students on April 28. Also beaten, taunted and detained were José Luis Simón of the weekly El Pueblo, publicity vehicle of the opposition Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, together with four members of a team from German State television’s Channel One (Nikolaus Brender, Peter Wendt, José Antonio Vulin and Eduardo Johnson). So was the Press and Culture Attaché of the West German Embassy, Armir Stever, who accompanied them as they covered the peaceful demonstration, organized on April 27 by opposition Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA). Although the Germans were released a few hours later on the same day and their equipment (with damage estimated at some $40,000) was returned to them, newsman Simon was kept under arrest an incommunicado for two days before he was freed. At the same time, although Diario de Noticias reporter Clemente Cáceres was not arrested, his recording equipment was also seized.
A national television reporter for a Channel 13 news program, Pedro Ferreri, was arrested on May 28, 1986. After several days of house arrest he was moved to the Investigation Center where he was held for one week by virtue of the regulations governing the state of siege. Although no official explanation was made as to the reasons for his arrest, it was thought to be due to the fact that he had sent a film abroad which showed police agents and members of the “red militia” brutally attacking participants in the recent public manifestations with clubs and electric cattle prods. His lawyer presented a writ of habeas corpus on June 4 and he was released on June 5, 1986 without charges having been made.
Another critical attack on freedom of expression took place in 1986 when Radio Charitas Director, the Reverend Father Javier Arancón, a Spanish Franciscan priest, was prevented from returning to Paraguay. He had previously been warned by the Minister of Culture and Worship, Carlos Ortiz Ramírez “to change the information approach of the station and fire the head announcer, Mr. Guillermo Yaluff, if he wished to remain in Paraguay.” Fr. Alarcón was first detained in Puerto Falcón, where all of his Paraguayan identity documents were seized, forcing him to leave the country as he was returning from a congress he had attended in Argentina.
Husband and wife Benjamín Ramón Livieres, reporter for La Tarde newspaper and a member of the Paraguayan Journalists Union, and María Herminia Feliciangeli, of the Commerce Trade Union, were arrested by several armed plain clothes policemen without a warrant on October 24, 1986 at 10:30 a.m. as they left the Hoy newspaper building. They were arrested and held incommunicado, without charges, at the Asunción Police Investigation Department. The Government maintained that both were active communists and that they were being held for a presumed violation of Law N° 209, later adding that by order of the Criminal Court Judge of First Instance they had been set free, respectively, the wife on December 18 and the husband on December 30, 1986.
Newsman Luis Alberto Gorosito and the popular singer Alberto González Rodas were arrested on November 28, 1986 pursuant to anti-subversion Law N° 209 for their participation in the traditional Ypacarai Folklore Festival. It took place in Posadas, Argentina, after its celebration had been banned that year in Paraguay by Interior Minister Dr. Sabino Montanaro “because it had become highly politicized.” Both were kept at the Tacumbú National Penitentiary until December 19, 1986 when they were released.
Radio Ñandutí newsman Oscar Acosta, a member of the Journalists’ Union, was detained on December 21, 1986 along with student Nicanor Felipe Duarte during a mass for political prisoners in an Asunción church. They were taken to, and held under arrest at, the capital police Investigation Department. Duarte was released on December 30 while Acosta was kept at the Tacumbú Penitentiary, accused of having violated the provisions of Law N° 209 against subversion. Early in January 1987, he was arraigned before the regular criminal court, where the presiding judge confirmed his arrest and orders the seizure of his property, a preventive measure routinely employed by some officials to harass members of the opposition. He was released on bail January 14.
Finally, mention should be made of radio announcer and master of ceremonies Isaac Villalba, arrested on December 31, 1986 pursuant to Article 79 of the National Constitution (state of siege) and released a few days later on January 9, 1987.
The cases cited lead to the Commission to conclude that during the period covered by this report, the freedoms of expression, opinion and dissemination of ideas were severely curtailed in Paraguay, resulting in stringent limitations on the news media. Using the umbrella of repressive legislation that grants excessive discretionary powers to the executive branch, the Government has closed a number of the mass communications media and arrested or expelled journalists and media entrepreneurs, or adopted harassment tactics to prevent them from performing their work.
Such action on the part of the Paraguayan Government not only violates the rights guaranteed by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, but creates an atmosphere that makes journalism difficult and dangerous, requiring courage and daring from those who would exercise it freely. At the same time, the situation described has produced generalized fear in the press media; frequently leading to self-censorship that keeps those responsible from doing their job objectively.
1. 1981 Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, p. 121 (Spanish version).
2 Ibid., page 122 (Spanish version).