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Radio journalist receives death threat from anti-drug agents, his phone and another journalist's illegally tapped, for reporting on corruption

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned for the safety of Vladimir Jara and Víctor Benítez of radio Chaco Boreal, who have received threats and whose phones have been illegally tapped since revealing alleged corruption within Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas, SENAD). The organisation calls on the authorities to carry out both disciplinary and criminal investigations into the matter.

"Cases of corruption and drug trafficking expose journalists to great risks, and the disappearance a year and a half ago of journalist Enrique Galeano, who was investigating this kind of case, is still unsolved" RSF said. "The threats against Jara and Benítez and the tapping of their phones are grave abuses of authority that indicate serious problems in the way the administration is functioning. The judicial authorities cannot let this go unpunished."

Jara told the state prosecutor's office (Fiscalía General del Estado) on 13 June 2007 that he received death threats from SENAD agents and that his mobile and land line telephones were being tapped. He said the threats and tapping were in reprisal for comments on air by his colleague, Victor Benítez, about corruption within the SENAD. Benítez's telephone lines are also allegedly been illegally tapped.

Shortly before the incidents, Benítez had called Jara, who has been closely observing the anti-drug agency's management. After that call, a SENAD official took Jara to task, saying it would wiser for him to defend the SENAD as it was a regular source of advertising revenue for the radio station. Jara subsequently began receiving email and mobile phone messages telling him to "shut up." SENAD's public announcements for his programme were cancelled the same day.

The Paraguayan press is still traumatized by Galeano's disappearance on 4 February 2006 in the central department of Concepción. Shortly before he went missing, Galeano, who worked for local Radio Azotey, had discovered the existence of questionable links between certain local officials and a Brazilian drug cartel. The case has never been solved, despite President Nicanor Duarte's promises (see IFEX alerts of 9 and 2 February 2007, 16 November, 26 and 10 October, 31 and 8 March and 14 February 2006).

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