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Paraguayan radio journalist killed after reporting on local drug trade

The Paraguayan Journalists Union (Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay, SPP) condemns the murder of radio journalist Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz, 28, who was shot to death on 16 May 2014 near his home in the María Victoria neighbourhood of Pedro Juan Caballero, Amambay department. On 17 May there was a demonstration about the murder outside the Ministry of the Interior. The SPP calls on the deputy minister for Domestic Security, Javier Ibarra, to explain what happened in the case and punish those responsible.

Alcaraz was the host of the programme "De Frente a la Mañana" which was broadcast daily from 6am to 12pm on Radio Amambay 570 AM, a station owned by Senator Robert Acevedo. On the show, Alcaraz often reported on drug traffickers operating in the area.

Another point of conflict was statements made by the station and Alcaraz against Governor Pedro Gonzalez, a recognized political rival of Acevedo.

Terror has once again taken hold of the Paraguayan press. Just over a year ago, in the same city, Carlos Manuel Artaza was the victim of a dispute between groups who were only able to solve their differences using violence.

Alcaraz joins a list of journalists murdered in connection with their work: Santiago Leguizamón (1991), Calixto Mendoza (1997), Benito Román Jara (2000), Salvador Medina (2001), Yamila Cantero (2002), Samuel Román (2004), Ángela Acosta (2006), Alberto Tito Palma, (2007), Martín Ocampos (2009), Merardo Romero (2011) and Carlos Manuel Artaza (2013). Marcelino Vázquez, owner of the radio station “Sin Fronteras” in Pedro Juan Caballero, was also killed last year.

The safety of journalists working in Pedro Juan Caballero must be reinforced since they also receive death threats. Unfortunately attacks and threats are happening in other regions of the country with a similar motive: to silence media workers who are reporting on all types of illegal businesses, businesses that, in many cases, have the backing of politicians and public authorities.

Death threats and murders are radical solutions that criminal gangs use against journalists. However, they are not the only ones making things difficult for the press – journalists are also criminally prosecuted for exposing the reality of what is going on via the media outlets where they work.

Impunity is the trademark of the majority of these cases, and as in the wider society, those who have power and economic resources have free reign to do what they want without punishment. What is needed is justice that serves the people and serves as an example to prevent further crimes. It should allow for the investigation of the murder of Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz and be able to determine who is responsible.

In a country where impunity is the norm, and not only where crimes against journalists are concerned, the SPP is committed to getting rid of the corrupt system that currently exists. The organisation calls on other unions and agricultural, student, indigenous and human rights groups to come together to achieve this goal.

SPP calls on authorities to be present in Pedro Juan Caballero and to help with the existing political conflict, developing actions that will restore security for the public. The organization believes it is necessary to change the economic model in the Amambay department, where illegal marijuana cultivation and drug trafficking are the sources of the systemic violence that journalists are reporting on day after day.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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