Mabel Rehnfeldt was questioned at the Prosecutor's Office in relation to information she published about alleged corruption within the government and was asked to reveal her sources.
On 22nd March 2018, Mabel Rehnfeldt, an investigative journalist in Paraguay, was summoned for questioning at the Prosecutor's Office. According to reports, Rehnfeldt was a witness in a case over allegations made in her programme "A la gran 730" regarding acts of corruption allegedly committed by governments institutions. However, according to the journalist, the prosecutors directed most of the questions to ascertain the origin of her sources of information, which, as the journalist pointed out, is confidential.
Several civil society organisations issued a statement on the incident, indicating that:
"Having summoned Mabel and subjected her to an extensive interrogation in no way has helped to clarify the facts. It has only served to try to sow fear in her and in other investigative journalists, leaving a clear signal that before the revelation of acts of corruption it will be those who unveil them and not the corrupt ones who will have to walk in the courts". (Translate from Spanish)
On 22nd March 2018, thousands of Paraguayan farmers met in the country’s capital Asunción to once again demand agrarian reform. This was the 25th annual Federación Nacional Campesina (National Farmer Federation) march. This year's march took place one month before the general elections in which Paraguayans will vote for a new president, legislators and provincial governors. The marchers aimed to send a clear message to the candidates about their demands, including on agrarian reform and access to education.
Reclamos campesinos, respuestas del Gobierno Nacional, en la XXV edición de la Marcha Anual de la Federación Nacional Campesina. pic.twitter.com/nF9AA6yRUB— Diario La Nación (@LaNacionPy) March 22, 2018
On 19th March 2018, a group of civil society organisations presented an Urgent Appeal to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. The Urgent Action was to inform the international actors about alleged corruption involving members of the Magistrates' Trial Jury, politicians and members of parliament, which have been recently revealed on audio files.
Civil society organisations have denounced the lack of independence within the judiciary that has contributed to the criminalisation of farmers and social leaders as well as the level of impunity for crimes committed by government officials.
The Constitution of Paraguay guarantees the freedom of association and no legal restrictions or bans on external funding are in place.
The Constitution of Paraguay guarantees the freedom of association and no legal restrictions or bans on external funding are in place. Although land claims of some indigenous communities have been legally resolved, police raids, harassment by paramilitary forces and illegal evictions continue against others, while numerous peasant farmers are forced to sell their land. Judicial proceedings against peasant farmers are common and human rights defenders face repression, in particular those working for the defence of indigenous communities and against land confiscation. For example, human rights defender Lorenzo Areco, who was killed in 2013, was known for his work assisting farmers with land claims. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, trade union rights are also subject to regular violations, such as reprisals for strikes and delay or denial of registration.
Although it is constitutionally guaranteed, the right to peaceful assembly is limited by laws imposing restrictions on the time and location in which demonstrations can take place.
Although it is constitutionally guaranteed, the right to peaceful assembly is limited by laws imposing restrictions on the time and location in which demonstrations can take place. The government continues to intimidate protestors, especially students demanding better education, and the police use excessive force against peasants and union workers. Repression has not curtailed the exercise of the right however. On 10 December 2014, International Human Rights Day, thousands – including teachers, public employees, farm workers and human rights advocates – marched in the capital Asunción to protest against homelessness, poverty, and unemployment, and to demand the president’s resignation. Recently, a union protest was met with excessive force by the police, leaving more than 20 people injured.
The constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and the press are significantly compromised in practice as well as by law.
The constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and the press are significantly compromised in practice as well as by law. Defamation is a criminal offence punishable with fines and prison sentences, and cases against journalists are regularly filed. The media landscape is highly concentrated, with three privately-owned media corporations having the influence to set the national media discourse. Although reporters are relatively safe in the capital city, they face significant danger in remote border areas, where local politicians operate in collusion with drug traffickers. At least three journalists were killed in Paraguay in 2014, and a total of 17 have been killed since 1991. Impunity and fear of reprisals have resulted in widespread self-censorship among reporters covering sensitive areas. Progress has also been registered as Paraguay, already an Open Government Partnership (OGP) member, passed a transparency and access to information law in September 2014 that came into force a year later. A positive development is the Senate decision to reject the approval of the so-called Pyrawebs bill that would have established mandatory data retention, which would have had a negative impact on the right to privacy and expression.