Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for democratization of the Paraguayan media and real media pluralism as the country prepares to elect a new president and congress on 21 April.
The organization also cautions against any reprisals and score-settling as a result if media allegations during the campaign about the two presidential front-runners, Horacio Cartes of the conservative right-wing Partido Colorado and Efraín Alegre of the liberal right-wing Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico.
“These elections will not suffice to erase the consequences of President Fernando Lugo’s removal in a parliamentary coup in June 2012 and its impact on freedom of information and the country’s ability to hold a public debate,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“This has been seen during the campaign in the way TV Pública and another national TV station refused to carry a spot produced by Frente Guasu, the former president’s coalition. New media regulations are needed more than ever in order to limit conflicts of interest and ensure that all sectors of opinion are represented. Community radios must also be guaranteed a place.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “Paraguay continues to be a dangerous country for journalists, in part because of the links between politics and organized crime, which were widely criticized during the campaign. What guarantees of safety and freedom of action will there be for journalists who are exposed to the possibility of reprisals after the election? This is a matter of real concern, one that needs to be addressed by those who win the election.”
The principle that radio and TV broadcasters should provide a “public service” during an election campaign suffered a major blow when two TV stations – privately-owned Canal 9 SNT and state-owned TV Pública – refused to broadcast the Frente Guasu campaign spot, which highlighted the two leading candidates’ direct involvement in last June’s parliamentary coup.
The two leading dailies, ABC Color and Última Hora, meanwhile reported allegations implicating Cartes and Alegre in major financial irregularities.
Already mentioned as being linked to regional drug trafficking in US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks, Cartes also appears in the Offshore Leaks files, according to which a bank he co-owns, Amambay Trust Bank, has a secret branch in the Cook Islands, a South Pacific tax haven.
This is detailed in a book about Cartes entitled “HC’s other face” that was published in March. Its author, César Avalos, has since reported receiving death threats.
The rival camp has also been the target of allegations, of which the most serious involves the alleged purchase of 5,000 hectares of land from a company linked to then congressional speaker Jorge Oviedo Matto in exchange for his and his party’s support for Alegre’s campaign. Following these allegations, Oviedo was removed from his post and is now being prosecuted.
Amid growing polarization, Teodoro Ortellado, the pro-Colorado owner and manager of the regional radio station Radio Puente Kyha, has reported receiving government warnings that his station could be closed down.