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"Political tensions once again threaten press freedom," says RSF


(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Minister of the Interior Walter Bower, RSF protested "the restrictions imposed on Aldo Zuccolillo, director of the ABC Color daily, and especially the ban against him leaving the country". Without making a statement about the case's fundamentals, the organisation stated that the measures taken against Zuccolillo are "disproportionate" and called on the minister to cancel them. RSF also expressed its "deep concern" about the series of threats and attacks against journalists and editors since the new vicepresident's election on 13 August 2000. The organisation requested that the minister "take all necessary measures to guarantee the security of journalists". "Political tensions once again threaten press freedom," declared RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard, who recalled that three journalists have been arrested and two programmes shutdown since the attempted coup d'état in the country on 19 May.

According to information obtained by RSF, Judge Alcides Corbeta prohibited Zuccolillo from leaving the country on 28 August. The judge's decision also stipulated that the information professional must present himself at the court on the 28th of each month, and pay a fine of 10,000,000 guaranis (US$2,853 or 3,200 euros). He is being censured for the 12 and 13 August publishing of two editorials supporting Julio Cesar Franco, the opposition Liberal Party's candidate, in the recent vicepresidential election. According to elections lawyer Carmelo Caballero, the accusation revolves around the fact that the articles violated the elections law, which prohibits the publication of "electoral propaganda" forty-eight hours prior to an election.


According to information obtained by RSF, Judge Alcides Corbeta prohibited Zuccolillo from leaving the country on 28 August. The judge's decision also stipulated that the information professional must present himself at the court on the 28th of each month, and pay a fine of 10,000,000 guaranis (US$2,853 or 3,200 euros). He is being censured for the 12 and 13 August publishing of two editorials supporting Julio Cesar Franco, the opposition Liberal Party's candidate, in the recent vicepresidential election. According to elections lawyer Carmelo Caballero, the accusation revolves around the fact that the articles violated the elections law, which prohibits the publication of "electoral propaganda" forty-eight hours prior to an election.

Furthermore, the eight days following the vicepresident's elections were marked by several cases of threats and attacks against journalists and communications media. On 13 August, the editorial offices of radio station Radio Primero de Marzo, a broadcaster based in Asuncion, received threatening telephone calls warning them that the offices might be attacked. The radio station was on the verge of publicising a voter's poll taken at ballot-boxes. On 15 August, Colorado Party (governing party) sympathisers threw rocks at the offices of private radio station Ñanduti, in Asuncion and screamed at Humberto Rubín, the station's director. The broadcaster had aired the results of a poll which announced the opposition candidate's victory. On 17 August, Elisabeth Palma, a journalist with Canal 9 television station, was hit by a car driven by former Comptroller Daniel Fretes Ventre, who has been accused of corruption and money laundering, when she tried to film him. Finally, on 18 and 20 August, the editorial offices of the "Noticias" daily received threatening telephone calls on several different occasions. According to the newspaper, on 19 August, the home of one of its journalists, Marlene Franco, was also shot at. The attack occurred after the journalist had already received threats while she was at the office the evening before.


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