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Three assassination attempts against journalist

(RSF/IFEX) - 28 July 2010 - Reporters Without Borders is worried about a series of threats and attacks against Gabriel Bustamante, a journalist based in the small southern town of Ayolas on the Argentine border, who works for radio FM Ayolas and who is a correspondent for the newspapers "La Nación" and "Crónica".

Last week, Bustamante was the target of repeated murder attempts by Francisco and Valentín Vera, the brothers of Isidro Vera, a senior executive with the Yacyretá binational power company. Francisco Vera went to Bustamante's home on 22 July and told him he had come to kill him, but neighbours managed to intervene. He went to the radio station the next day saying he had come to "finish the job". Bustamante was there but succeeded in escaping.

Francisco Vera's threatening behaviour was apparently prompted by Bustamante's criticism of Isidro Vera during his radio programme, in which he linked him to alleged corruption.

Bustamante reported the threats to the police, who arrested Francisco Vera and held him for several hours, finally releasing him for "lack of evidence".

With a gun in his hand, Valentín Vera forced his way into the home of a neighbour of Bustamante on 24 July, apparently believing it was Bustamante's home. The police arrested him and placed him under judicial custody. As a result of Valentín Vera's armed intrusion, Francisco Vera was finally charged by prosecutor José Llano with "attempted grevious bodily harm" but he is now on the run.

Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to do everything possible to arrest and punish those responsible for these attacks, including the instigator. It is unacceptable that a journalist should be forced to live in constant fear of being murdered just because he criticised a public figure.

Ranked 54th out of 175 countries, Paraguay has a fairly good position in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index but impunity prevails. The August 2007 murder of journalist Tito Palma and the January 2009 murder of journalist Martín Ocampos Páez are still unpunished. Both were killed for reporting cases of corruption.

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