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Journalists' union accuses government of covering up disappearance of journalist Enrique Galeano

(SPP/IFEX) - On 4 October 2006, the Union of Paraguayan Journalists (Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay, SPP) accused the government of political responsibility for the forced disappearance of journalist Enrique Galeano, "for ensuring this act continues in impunity."

Fifty-four-year-old Galeano, who worked in Yvy Yaú, Concepción, some 350 km north of Asunción, the capital, disappeared on 4 February while heading home at the end of his workday at Radio Azotey radio station.

"Today, eight months after his disappearance, everything suggests that neither the public prosecutor nor the police have undertaken a serious investigation as to the whereabouts of Galeano", said Julio Benegas, the secretary general of the SPP. "The police have filed the case away and the attorney general [Ministerio Público] has not taken action on the complaint filed by the SPP, in which we requested an investigation into a possible cover-up by the regional police authorities.

"They have not even investigated the ruling-party Congressman Magdaleno Silva, identified by locals as being involved in the northern region's drug-trafficking, and as a person with knowledge of Galeano's fate."

For Benegas, "the impunity of this case directly undermines the principals of free expression upon which the journalism profession depends."

He added, "It also highlights the indifference of state security bodies to citizens' right to life, as well as the incompetence - or, even worse, the complicity - of these bodies when it comes to criminal gangs, drug traffickers, and smugglers throughout the country.

"The SPP expresses its outrage at the lack of action by interior minister Rogelio Benítez, state prosecutor Rubén Candia Amarilla, the other prosecutors involved in the case, the police and other investigative bodies of the state, all of whom have demonstrated a disinterest bordering on complicity."

The SPP has also requested an interview with the head of government, Duarte Frutos, to bring to his attention the links that exist among Congressman Silva, the police, and organized crime.

"We have had no response to our request, although Duarte Frutos did meet with Silva, despite the latter's association with forces responsible for 10 years of terror, including four disappearances and 50 killings, all unpunished, in Yby Yaú and the surrounding region."

Benegas further stated that "Galeano is a fellow worker; he made only $US 75 a month; he was a broadcaster and a journalist; he worked hard every day to support his family, his wife and four children. He was a worker, and in our country the only thing that counts is money; money exerts pressure, it influences the law and shakes the political apparatus, and this is revolting."

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