Congress members present bill for protection of journalists and press workers in Paraguay

“On Freedom of Expression and Protection of Journalists and Press Workers” was the bill presented on April 27 in Paraguay, a day after the country celebrated the Day of the Journalist, according to newspaper La Nación. The bill was announced at a press conference given by congresswoman and head of the Commission of Human Rights, Olga Ferreira de López and legislator Pastor Vera Bejarano, the newspaper added.

Ferreira de López explained that the bill seeks to guarantee the life, integrity, freedom and security of all people who are at risk for practicing journalism or any work of the press.

“With the help of all the press workers there should be a law with full legal and social rationality, that can ensure the work of Paraguayan journalism, and that contributes to the democratization of our society,” Vera Bejarano said, according to the portal of the Paraguayan Chamber of Representatives.

One day before presenting the bill, the Union of Paraguayan Journalists (SPP for its initials in Spanish) demanded that the government adopt necessary measures to improve security for the exercise of journalism, according to Última Hora.

Marking the Day of the Journalist on April 26, the SPP commemorated the 25th anniversary of the death of Santiago Leguizamón (1991), which remains in impunity, the outlet added.

According to digital news site Hoy, Leguizamón was the first journalist killed because of his profession after the fall of the dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989). The deaths of 16 reporters, also killed in times of democracy, followed.

Ferreira de López, who also recalled the 17 journalists killed in the country in the last decades, highlighted the importance of a law for protection of journalists that provides the basis for cooperation and coordination between the central government, national and international public bodies, private institutions and civil society, according to the site of the Chamber of Representatives.

Ferreira de López also said at the press conference that, for the purpose of the law, an institution or entity must be created to ensure it. To further analyze the issue, she announced an initial public hearing in 15 days. Also, the legislator was confident that the law would be approved by at least one of the two legislative chambers of Congress by the end of the year, the governmental portal reported.

Felipe Llambías, representative of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said at an international conference organized by SPP for the Day of the Journalist, that the violence against journalists, from insult, to harassment, to kidnapping and murder creates a “chilling effect” for both the victims and their colleagues, according to Spanish news agency EFE.

Paraguay is ranked 111 of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Ranking, published by the French non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its acronym in French).

RSF said that the border region of Paraguay with Brazil and Argentina remains very dangerous for journalists that cover drug trafficking and corruption. Threats and attacks on reporters from criminal organizations and local officials are frequent, protected by the “climate of impunity,” the organization reported.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.