Paraguay turns to IAPA p.18

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By: Mark Fitzgerald Paraguayan journalists, publishers, radio owners, and commentators came to the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) mid-year meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, this week prepared to duke it out with each other.
Paraguay's contentious press is deeply divided over issues of politics as well as journalism, and the speakers kicked off their IAPA session with heated arguments. By the end of the meeting, however, the adversaries were brought together, united by IAPA's peacemaking efforts and, ironically, the terrible turmoil that exploded in their homeland.
"They were completely divided, but they came to agreement on this resolution ? which was a very worthwhile thing to do," says Robert J. Cox, assistant editor of The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., and member of IAPA's Executive Committee. "Unfortunately, once more, it took a tragic incident to bring people together."
While the Paraguayan journalists were arguing in Jamaica, their nation's vice president, Luis Maria Arg?na, was shot dead in an ambush as he was driving to work. Arg?na had been engaged in a bitter intra-party power struggle with President Ra?l Cubas, and Arg?na's followers immediately accused the president and his ally, former general and convicted coup leader Lino Oviedo, of engineering the assassination.
At IAPA, the Paraguayan press divided between those who opposed president Cubas and four media figures who support Cubas and have been charged with inciting to overthrow Parliament. The four ? Ra?l Melamed, Osvaldo Dom?nguez, Alberto Vargas Pe?a, and Juan Carlos Bernab? ? portray themselves as press martyrs while other journalists say they are simply irresponsible.
"We do not consider them working journalists," Magdalena Riveros, an official with the Paraguayan journalists union known as SPP, said in a telephone call from Asuncion, Paraguay. SPP in recent weeks has complained of increasing brutality against journalists from members of Cubas' party faction. Police have stood by and watched as journalists were beaten at party events, SPP says.
In the political chaos of Paraguay, Riveros says, the situation has actually improved for journalists. On the other hand, Cox says he had been told by the publisher of Ultima Hora that three of the paper's reporters were in the hospital as a result of the violence. Riveros accuses Melamed's station of broadcasting "violent slogans" inciting people to close down Parliament, which opposes President Cubas.
The IAPA resolution agreed upon by the two sides of the Paraguayan press condemns both official violence against journalists and "committing abuses in practicing the profession or attacking institutions or the rule of law." Depending on their political bent, on March 24 Paraguay's papers ? which also saw the Parliament move to impeach Cubas ? took up sides in the debate at IAPA by playing up either the condemnation of official violence or press irresponsibility.
IAPA also agreed to send a high-level delegation to Paraguay for a first-hand look at the press situation. Cox, who went on a fact-finding mission for IAPA in February, says it is not certain when it will go to Paraguay, which seems not to have fully recovered from the 35-year dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner that ended in 1989.
Photog convicted
Steve Keegan, a newspaper photographer arrested last summer while photographing riots at a Reno, Nev., car festival, was found guilty of obstructing officers at the scene. As an intern at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Keegan covered last year's "Hot August Nights," Reno's annual classic car festival. The show erupted into riots which Keegan attempted to photograph until police arrested him for allegedly interfering in police matters.
A municipal judge found Keegan guilty and fined him $1,320 along with 80 hours of community service. According to The Associted Press, the judge said that Keegan entered a police perimeter and came within a few feet of an officer making an arrest despite admonitions to get back.
Keegan, now a Los Angeles Times employee, and Mark Studyvin, another photographer, were arrested and convicted for obstructing and resisting officers. The Gazette-Journal says it may appeal the ruling.

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