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IAPA hails conviction in Brazil of mastermind behind murder of Paraguayan newsman

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:

IAPA hails conviction in Brazil in murder of Paraguayan newsman

MIAMI, Florida (August 16, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today welcomed the recent conviction of one of the masterminds of the April 20, 2004 murder of Paraguayan journalist Samuel Román.

On August 10 a jury, after deliberating for more than 12 hours, found Eurico Mariano, former mayor of the city of Coronel Sapucaia, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, guilty of having arranged the journalist's murder and sentenced him to 17 years and nine months' imprisonment.

Román, a radio reporter for radio stations Ñu Verá and Conquista FM in Capitán Bado on the Paraguayan border with Brazil, was attacked by two men on a motorcycle who shot him 11 times as he was heading to his home in Coronel Sapucaia, on the Brazilian side of the border across from where he worked. He was the host of a program entitled "The Voice of the People", in which he raised questions about the local government's actions.

"This conviction and sentence is a positive step in the battle against the violence unleashed against journalists in the border regions, and especially so because it is the punishment of a mastermind, something quite unusual in cases of the murder of journalists," said Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

According to local press reports, nine persons have been charged in connection with Román's murder, the majority of them Paraguayan citizens. Mariano, the only one to be brought to trial, arranged the killing to silence the journalist who was making accusations about him, according to the public prosecutor handling the case, Ricardo Rotunno.

Statistics compiled by the IAPA show that in recent years there have been arraignments in 13 other cases of murder of journalists in Brazil, in which there have been 29 convictions, with 21 of those sentenced continuing to serve prison terms today.

The IAPA, in its recently-published book "Map of Risks for Journalists" - part of the organization's Anti-Impunity Project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation - identifies the Brazil-Paraguay and United States-Mexico border regions, along with Colombia, where there are areas controlled by guerrillas and paramilitaries, as the most dangerous places in the Americas for reporters.

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