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A mastermind of the 2004 murder of Paraguayan journalist Samuel Román has been convicted and sentenced to more than 17 years in jail, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) reports.

After deliberating for more than 12 hours, a jury found Eurico Mariano, former mayor of the city of Coronel Sapucaia, Brazil, guilty of having arranged Román's murder. Mariano was sentenced to 17 years and nine months in jail.

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. He hosted the programme "The Voice of the People", in which he invited listeners to comment on political life in the region. The 450-mile-long Paraguay-Brazil border is known as a hotbed of corruption, smuggling and organised crime.

"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," says IAPA.

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.

IAPA, in its recently published book "Map of Risks for Journalists" - part of the organisation's Anti-Impunity Project - identifies the Brazil-Paraguay border as one of the three most dangerous places in the Americas for reporters. The other two are the United States-Mexico border regions, and Colombia, where there are areas controlled by guerrillas and paramilitaries.

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