RSF calls for reforms to help Paraguay’s press resist organized crime

While violence against the press in Paraguay is nowhere near the levels found in Mexico, Honduras, or Colombia, journalists in the country have little support and face daily risks, especially those in border regions controlled by international smuggling gangs, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) writes in its report “Journalists alone facing trafficking."

The report, done in conjunction with the Paraguayan Journalism Forum (FOPEP), discusses the geopolitical situation in Paraguay, South America’s largest marijuana producer, a haven for Brazilian cartels, and a country still dealing with the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) guerilla group.

These factors combine to create both reporting and safety challenges for Paraguay journalists, RSF argues, contributing to a “high degree of self-censorship,” the “lack of support from news media for their correspondents,” and “almost total impunity for the most serious crimes of violence against journalists.”

According to the report’s author, RSF’s Americas representative Benoît Hervieu, the level of drug trafficking in the country can affect press coverage. Due to the economic power of those working in the black market, Hervieu says “mafia organizations” are able to buy newspapers and hold shares in media outlets, ABC Color explains.

However, RSF says that in the face of this bleak picture, cross-border solidarity between Paraguayan, Argentinean, and Brazilian journalists and increased government transparency are positive steps.

Additionally, the organization calls for several reforms to help protect journalists and improve coverage:

* Judicial reform to improve supervision over police and judges in order to reduce impunity in crimes against journalists.
* Passing a freedom of information law to guarantee journalists and citizens the right to watchdog the government.
* Writing laws that regulate how media outlets are financed and owned in order to prevent infiltration by organized crime.
* Tort reform to reduce the “exorbitant” damages media outlets and journalists can be forced to pay as a result of lawsuits.

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.