First conviction handed down for 2014 murder of Paraguayan journalist Pablo Medina

The driver of a former Paraguayan mayor is the first person to be convicted in the case of the murders of journalist Pablo Medina and his assistant Antonia Almada. His former boss, Vilmar Acosta Marques, is accused of masterminding Medina's murder.

A court sentenced Arnaldo Cabrera, former driver for Acosta, to five years in prison for failing to communicate an offense, according to Última Hora. However, he was acquitted in the murders of Medina and Almada.

Última Hora said that Cabrera was hired as a driver for the city of Ypejhú, but really served as Acosta’s personal secretary.

After working with Vilmar as a driver I learned that he had a problem with a local journalist, named Pablo Medina, who hurt him politically,” Cabrera said to the prosecution, according to ABC Color.

He added that he heard his boss “was going to bring his brother Wilson Acosta from Brazil to eliminate the people who politically harmed him,” the newspaper reported.

Almada and Medina, regional correspondent for Paraguay’s largest daily newspaper ABC Color, were killed on Oct. 16, 2014 in Curuguaty.

Medina and his two assistants were returning from a reporting trip when two men in camouflage stopped them and asked the journalist to identify himself. They then shot him; Almada also was shot and later died.

Medina frequently was threatened because of his reporting on marijuana production and drug trafficking activity in eastern Paraguay and previously had been assigned police protection by the state, but that was withdrawn in 2013.

In November 2015, Acosta, former mayor of Ypejhú who is known as Neneco, was extradited to Paraguay from Brazil after being accused of masterminding Medina’s murder.

In his reporting, Medina had linked Acosta to drug trafficking and some homicides.

The former mayor became a fugitive shortly after Medina’s death. He fled to Brazil and his extradition was delayed for months because he claimed to be a Brazilian citizen.

A second person accused in the murder, Flavio Acosta Riveros, was detained in southern Brazil on Jan. 9. Wilson Acosta Marques is still on the run.

Medina was one of three journalists killed in Paraguay in 2014, which made it the deadliest Latin American country for journalists that year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

On the one-year anniversary of the journalist’s death, colleagues held memorial events and called for investigation of the crime and punishment for perpetrators. They also created a social media campaign to bring attention to the issue of impunity in murders of Paraguayan journalists.

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.