Paraguayan journalist living in danger receives CPJ International Press Freedom Award

Paraguayan journalist Cándido Figueredo Ruiz is one of the winners of the 2015 International Press Freedom Awards given by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the organization announced Tuesday.

Due to consistent and credible threats and attacks against him, Figueredo Ruiz is perhaps one of the most guarded journalists in Latin America. For two decades he has had police protection for 24 hours a day, as well as surveillance cameras in his home.

"It's like living in prison," Figueredo Ruiz told CPJ.

The journalist lives in the municipality Pedro Juan Caballero, on the Brazilian border, where he is a correspondent for the daily ABC Color, one of the largest newspapers in the country.

Like many border areas of his country, Pedro Juan Caballero is one of the areas where organized crime and drug trafficking activity is present. This activity often operates under the complicity of the authorities. For this reason, practicing journalism in this region has become one of the most dangerous activities, CPJ reported.

Figueredo Ruiz received the first threats for his coverage in 1995 and has since lived and worked under police protection. He received the most recent threat this past May, but says he has lost count of the number of threats he has received. His home has been shot at twice. And in 2012, the Brazilian police informed him of a plan to assassinate him that was discovered after intercepting a call between two criminal figures.

Paraguay has suffered an increase in violence against journalists. During 2014, three journalists were killed; one of them was Pablo Medina, who was covering another border area for the newspaper ABC Color.

CPJ prizes will be awarded in November in New York City.

"In a very dangerous period for journalists, these awardees have braved threats from repressive governments, drug cartels, and Islamic State," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Whether through blogs or traditional media outlets, or by drawing cartoons, they risk their personal safety and freedom to bring us the news."

In addition to Figueredo Ruiz, the other winners are:

• Zone 9 Bloggers from Ethiopia. This is a group of bloggers, of which six were arrested, detained and accused of terrorism in retaliation for their critical reporting.

• Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque 'Zunar', of Malaysia. Zunar is a cartoonist charged with sedition for his work satirizing abuses of senior officials of the Malaysian government. For this offense, he could be sentenced to 43 years in prison. He is the first cartoonist to receive the award from CPJ.

• Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, of Syria. This group of citizen journalists remains one of the few independent sources that continues to report from inside the power of the Islamic State.

Also, the Associated Press special correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Kathy Gannon, will receive the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for her career serving the cause of press freedom. Gannon has covered the region for AP as a correspondent and chief correspondent since 1988. In 2001, Gannon was the only Western journalist who received permission from the Taliban to return to Kabul during the invasion of Afghanistan by the US-led coalition, CPJ reported.

Other Latin American journalist have received this award in the past. Janet Hinostroza, of Ecuador, in 2013; Javier Valdez Cardenas, of Mexico, in 2011; and Laureano Márquez of Venezuela, in 2010.

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.

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