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Historic prison term for former mayor behind killing of journalist

The Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay welcomes the sentencing, the first in which the person who ordered an attack on a journalist has been sentenced in accordance with the crime committed, but draws attention to the fact that impunity continues to reign in 16 other cases of murdered journalists and commentators in the country.

Paraguayan journalists call for justice for their slain colleague Pablo Medina and condemn former Ypejhu mayor Vilmar Neneco Acosta in front of the prosecutor's office in Asunción, Paraguay, 18 November 2015
Paraguayan journalists call for justice for their slain colleague Pablo Medina and condemn former Ypejhu mayor Vilmar Neneco Acosta in front of the prosecutor's office in Asunción, Paraguay, 18 November 2015

NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images

This is a translation of the original article in Spanish.

The Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (Paraguayan Journalists' Union, SPP) considers the recent sentencing of Vilmar Acosta, the former mayor of Ypedju, for his involvement in the assassination of journalist Pablo Medina and his assistant, Antonia Almada, to be an important step forward that responds to the demands for justice put forward by the victims' relatives, the journalists' association and society in general.

This is the first case in which the person who ordered an attack on a journalist and/or commentator has been sentenced in accordance with the crime committed. We are disappointed, however, that the work of the prosecutor did not include follow-up of indications of other political players' complicity in facilitating Acosta's escape to Brazil.

We should also keep in mind that there are 16 other cases of crimes against journalists or commentators, which were promptly reported, where justice remains to be served and where the files have been shelved for years. The first and most emblematic case is that of Santiago Leguizamón, who was assassinated on 26 April 1991 by border mafia elements. Justice has not been served in Leguizamón's case despite numerous demands for punishment of all those responsible for the crime. As a result of the lack of progress, pressure has been brought to bear by the SPP and relatives of the journalists, such that the case is now being analysed by the OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

We believe that the sentencing in the Medina case represents an important advance that will positively impact respect for the right to freedom of expression. We, as media workers, have been fighting for 28 years, since the fall of the dictatorship, to safeguard this right in a context of persecution, repression and discrimination against our labour organisation that has included threats, attacks and censorship, along with a number of other types of harassment. These actions have originated from the national authorities, business groups and mafia elements, which have to date encountered prosecutors and judges who were subservient to their interests.

The ruling against Acosta will be appealed to a superior court. As such we hope that the 29-year sentence plus an additional 10 years as a security measure that was already decreed will hold firm, and that the person who ordered the killing of Pablo Medina and Antonia Almada will be required to serve the sentence in a public prison without any type of special privileges.

Board of Directors - SPP
20-12-2017

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