The Media

Paraguay Table of Contents

Although there was some improvement in the human rights situation in Paraguay in the late 1980s, the same cannot be said regarding the media. The Stroessner regime did not hesitate to silence newspapers and radio stations that became too independent and critical. The only media that remained critical and were allowed to function belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1988 there were five progovernment daily newspapers in Asunción: El Diario de Noticias, Hoy, La Tarde, Ultima Hora, and Patria. Ultima Hora demonstrated somewhat more independence from the regime than the other four. Weekly newspapers included one published by the Colorado Party, Mayoría, and another, more or less independent, Nande, which practiced self-censorship. There was one opposition weekly, Sendero, published by the Roman Catholic Church. It had a limited circulation and was often confiscated off the streets. In addition, Mario Medina, bishop of Benjamín Aceval, published a monthly journal, Nuestro Tiempo, that focused on land problems, human rights issues, and problems with freedom of the press. Because of government harassment, the journal was printed in Brazil. Consequently, getting it into Paraguay was difficult; the maximum circulation of 300 copies was either hand delivered or mailed in disguised envelopes.

In the early 1980s, ABC Color was the largest selling daily newspaper, having a circulation of 85,000. The newspaper was founded in 1967 by Aldo Zuccolillo--a wealthy businessman and confidant of Stroessner and others in his inner circle--and was originally supportive of the regime. The paper began to focus on polemical issues, however, including corruption among senior government officials and the negative aspects of the Treaty of Itaipú with Brazil, and included interviews with opposition politicians. Its circulation increased, and it became the most important source in Paraguay for independent information. In May 1983, ABC Color' offices were surrounded by troops, and Zuccolillo was arrested. Following further harassment, the newspaper was shut down in March 1984 by order of the minister of interior. Despite resolutions in the United States Congress, protests by the United States embassy in Asunción, and protest visits by the Inter-American Press Association, as of 1988 ABC Color remained closed.

In the late 1980s, there were two semi-official television stations and fifty-two radio stations, only three of which were independent. One of the latter was Radio Caritas of the Roman Catholic Church. Until it was closed in January 1987, the most important independent station was Radio Ñandutí. The station's popular live phone-in program frequently aired complaints about corruption and the lack of democracy. In July 1983, however, Radio Ñandutí's director, Humberto Rubín, was arrested several times; in April and May 1986, the station was attacked by Colorado vigilantes. After months of jamming and other harassment, Radio Ñandutí was finally forced off the air.

Although little free media existed in the late 1980s, there was, nevertheless, a certain amount of critical reporting on political and social events and themes in the progovernment dailies. Occasionally reported, for example, were activities of and statements by unrecognized political parties, labor organizations, and community organizations; critical statements by the Roman Catholic Church and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; harassment and imprisonment of opposition politicians; and repression of peasants. Self-censorship was predominant, but there was more reporting on critical topics than might have been anticipated under a tightly controlled political system. Most reports did not, however, touch directly upon the president except to praise and esteem him.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress