Paraguay’s celebration of its Day of the Journalist on Friday 26 April was marked by mourning for press photographer Carlos Artaza, fatally shot two days ago by men on a motorcycle in Pedro Juan Caballero, a city on the Brazilian border that is the capital of Amambay department.
Artaza, who died while being transferred by ambulance to Asunción yesterday morning, worked for the press department in the Amambay governor’s office. His murder comes at a fraught time for journalists, with local political tensions compounding the permanent threat from the drug cartels.
“Artaza is the second journalist to be killed in Amambay this year, following radio station owner and manager Marcelino Vázquez, whose murder in early February has yet to be solved,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Today’s date, which Paraguay chose to pay tribute to its journalists, serves as a reminder of the cruel impunity surrounding the death of Santiago Leguizamón, a radio station manager killed on 26 April 1991. This week’s murder requires a thorough investigation and demands an end to the reign of crime in Paraguay.
“The climate during the past few days in Amambay has been an extreme reflection of the increasingly worrying situation for the safety of journalists and freedom of information in Paraguay as a whole.
“Threats and intimidation marred the campaign for the 21 April general election, which was also marked by revelations about links between organized crime and various politicians including the winner of the presidential race, Horacio Cartes. The rule of law is precarious in Paraguay and the fate of its journalists is one of the factors on which its survival depends.”
Artaza was at the wheel of his car when he was shot five times by two men on a motorcycle. He was returning from a demonstration celebrating parliamentarian Pedro González’s successful bid to be elected governor of Amambay.
González and his main rival, Senator Roberto Acevedo of the centre-right Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), waged a very aggressive campaign. “Carlos Artaza portrayed the rivalry on social networks and it may have been this that cost him his life,” a national media correspondent told Reporters Without Borders.
A few days before the election, TV journalist Anibal Gómez Caballero received threatening messages on his mobile phone just he was moderating a live debate between candidates on the cable TV station Gosi Telenorte.
“If we were able to kill Santiago Leguizamón, it will be even easier to kill you with the help of a bomb,” the messages said, in both Spanish and Guaraní.
Candido Figueredo, the national daily ABC Color’s correspondent in Pedro Juan Caballero, also received a death threat on his mobile phone after covering the Artaza shooting. “You will be next,” he was warned.
Figueredo, who was already receiving police protection, told Reporters Without Borders he has now been assigned four police bodyguards.
For further information on the situation of freedom of the press in Paraguay, read: PARAGUAY: ALONE FACING THE TRAFFICKING, published by Reporters Without Borders in 2011. http://en.rsf.org/paraguay-alone-facing-trafficking-a-report-26-07-2011,40693.html