Paraguay's unfree press
A month on from the controversial dismissal of Fernando Lugo from the presidency of Paraguay, the involvement of the country's media in the events is becoming more clear every day.
According to a report by Reporters without Borders, in the wake of the constitutional charges from Congress, which in just 24 hours and with no time for the accused to prepare a defense removed the president, the independent press has been isolated and muzzled. And the two largest consortia of journalists have been transformed into spokespeople for the new government.
A bit of history: Fernando Lugo (pictured) took power in Paraguay in August, 2008, after a career as a priest. He left his pulpit to enter politics, putting an end to 60 years of uninterrupted government by the Colorado Party, the center of economic power in the South American country.
Lugo attempted to break the ironclad local political traditions, which lent a populist tone to his government. One of his main thrusts was the improvement of public health, for example. Nevertheless, the media began to attack Lugo, taking advantage of his weak moral character, by revealing that he had two children while he was still a Catholic bishop. Lugo was forced to acknowledge these uncomfortable facts.
The pressure from media was such that Lugo decided in 2011 to create Public Television, an official media outlet for the state. But rather than function as a means of waging war on traditional media, Public Television instead gave space to citizens to air their grievances and concerns.
The critical and costly event for Lugo took place in June, 2012, when rural peasants forcibly occupied land belonging to a well-known former senator from the Colorado Party. In the town of Curuguaty, the occupation ended with a police raid that left 17 dead: 11 peasants and six police. Virtually every sector of society protested the violence of the raid.
The Colorado Party, together with parties that had supported Lugo, charged Lugo under the constitution with "faulty performance of his duties", and less than 24 hours later, Congress fired the president.
Latin America reacted immediately to what critics described as a coup d'etat.
The first act of Paraguay's new president, Federico Franco, was to dismantle Public Television's programming, cutting citizens off from the medium. The public reacted by staging protests outside the station.
According to the Reporters without Borders report, pressure has since been brought against the journalist corps, resulting in a summary purging of reporters with ties to the previous presidential administration.
All this has taken place, as other analysts have noted, without a single local media organization nor the national media allowing space for Lugo to state his position.
The press has not been free in Paraguay.