Justice prevails in the case of murdered journalist Pablo Medina

Expression

On 14th December 2017, it was reported that Vilmar Acosta Marques, former mayor of Ypejhú, Canindeyú province, was found guilty of being the instigator behind the murders of journalist Pablo Medina and his assistant, Antonia Almada, in 2014. He was sentenced to 39 years in prison. The court found that "numerous evidence presented at trial showed that Vilmar had threatened Pablo Medina on several occasions". Medina had denounced the former mayor's "involvement in illegal acts", in particular, his involvement in drug trafficking rings. In retaliation, Acosta Marques had his brother and nephew murder the journalist.

The incident occurred in October 2014 when the two men intercepted Medina’s car while he was returning from a reporting trip to the Ko’ê Porã indigenous community. They shot Medina several times and his assistant Almada was also hit and later died. Medina's 27-year-old brother, Salvador, also a journalist, had been killed in January 2001 in the same area close to the Brazilian border, which has been especially dangerous for journalists due to active drug cartels in the area.

Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (Paraguayan Journalists' Union) considers the sentencing "an important step forward that responds to the demands for justice from the victims' relatives, the journalists' association and the society in general".

In a press release, the Union indicated that: 

"This is the first case in which the person who ordered an attack on a journalist and/or commentator has been sentenced in accordance with the crime committed".

Despite the positive court ruling in the case of the journalist's murder, the Union also pointed out that there are 16 other cases of crimes against journalists “where justice remains to be served and where the files have been shelved for years”.

In a separate incident, on 14th December 2017 the Union issued another statement condemning President Horacio Cartes' negative attitude towards journalists. According to reports, Cartes had stated officially that journalists are dispensable and that Paraguay can do without them.

On 24th November 2017, the Paraguayan Association of Community Radios and Alternative Media issued a statement denouncing the discrimination and persecution against community radios taking place under the Cartes government. The National Commission on Telecommunications has reportedly not authorised some community radio stations to operate, even when all necessary requirements for authorisation have been met. However, the Association also stated that several radio stations aligned with the current political party were granted permission to operate in the country, which it considers  a discriminatory act on the part of the authorities. 

Peaceful Assembly

According to a 2017 report by Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay (Coordinator of Human Rights of Paraguay), the two major human rights issues in 2017 included restrictions on and repression of social protests and existing barriers to advancing gender equality. 

Regarding social protests, the two most relevant cases in 2017 were the mobilisations against constitutional reform on 31st March and 1st April that were repressed by police and the peasants´ marches in Asunción in July 2017.