Farmers prevented from protesting on Asuncion's streets

Peaceful Assembly

As previously reported on the Monitor, farmers in Paraguay have been mobilising to demand the government's enforcement of a 2016 agreement that “promised the refinancing of agricultural debts of approximately 18,000 producers”. In September 2017, the group resumed its mobilisations. On 7th September 2017, the police prevented them from marching through the streets of downtown Asunción. The Law of the Marchódromo states that protesters may rally on Asunción's streets only after regular work hours, which is between 19:00 and midnight. The farmers expressed frustration over the police interference in their protests, especially since a few weeks prior teachers were permitted to demonstrate on the streets in the morning. Police allege that teachers coordinated their actions in advance and complied with the planned itineraries. 

Oscar Ayala, Secretary General of Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay (Human Rights Coordination of Paraguay), considers the law a serious restriction on the rights of peaceful assembly and expression and therefore unconstitutional. 

Expression

On 25th October 2017, a group of international and national civil society organisations sent a letter to Paraguayan lawmakers, calling on them to reject a proposed law to regulate anonymous online posts during the upcoming elections. Under the proposed law, service providers would be required to delete content posted by anonymous users that is deemed "offensive or defamatory" toward political parties or candidates. Comments would be allowed only if the social media user was identified by their name and ID card number. Civil society's letter stated that the proposed law restricts citizens' right to freedom of expression, thereby violating articles in the country's constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

In a separate development, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned for the safety of Paraguayan journalist Cándido Figueredo Ruiz. An alleged drug trafficker who had previously threatened to kill the journalist was released from prison. Figueredo has lived under 24-hour police protection for more than two decades following years of death threats for his coverage of organised crime and drug trafficking.

"This decision increases the danger for one of Paraguay's most at-risk journalists," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "The release of a man who has threatened to kill Cándido Figueredo only increases the responsibility of the authorities to ensure his safety and freedom from fear".

On 14th November 2017, Sindicato de Periodistas de Paraguay (Union of Journalists of Paraguay) issued a statement condemning a new act of censorship by the La Nación Group over the unjustified dismissal of journalist Lucia González. La Nación Group belongs to the Cartes Group owned by the family of President Horacio Cartes. Gonzales was dismissed without any justification after she had claimed that writings under her authorship had been modified without her consent.

On 16th October 2017, Sindicato de Periodistas de Paraguay mobilised to demand justice for journalists Pablo Medina and Antonia Almada who were murdered three years ago in Canindeyu.