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IFEX-ALC condemns arbitrary detention of Paraguayan journalist union's secretary general

Santiago Ortiz
Santiago Ortiz

The IFEX-ALC network absolutely rejects the arbitrary police actions, to which the General Secretary of the Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (Paraguayan Journalists Union, SPP), Santiago Ortiz, was subjected this past Wednesday, May 25. He was detained by force without any justification, in clear violation of the Constitution of Paraguay.

This incident took place on the afternoon of 25 May in the Barrio Obrero neighbourhood, in the city of Asunción, Paraguay. Ortiz was walking on a public street when he was approached by a group of police officers who asked, in an unjustified and violent manner, to see his identification. When Ortiz responded saying that he did not have it on him, he was verbally and physically assaulted by the officers who then drove him to the police station.

The officers launched various accusations at Ortiz while detaining him, and they acted using unjustified violence, which can be seen in a video Ortiz recorded during this incident, which went viral on social media.

After several minutes incommunicado and without any definite information about his whereabouts – since the police station denied that Ortiz was being detained there – the General Secretary of the SPP was released thanks to the timely action of human rights lawyers.

Once Ortiz was released, he denounced the high-handed and violent treatment from the police officers, and he said that even residents of the neighbourhood and colleagues who approached to see what was happening were mistreated by those in uniform.

Police Superintendent, Vidal Achucarro, justified the actions taken against Ortiz in stating that he was detained because he refused to show his identification, and that his identity had to be verified given that he was in a “conflictive” neighbourhood.

These actions are in violation of Article 12 of the Constitution of Paraguay, which establishes that only by means of a written court order can deprivation of liberty be used, or in the case that someone is caught committing a flagrant offence. Neither of these conditions were met in Ortiz's case.

The IFEX-ALC network expresses its disapproval of these police actions and expresses its solidarity with the Sindicato de Periodistas de Paraguay (a local partner of our alliance) and with its General Secretary, Santiago Ortiz. Furthermore, the government of Horacio Cartes is urged to take all necessary steps to clarify the situation and discipline those responsible.

The network would like to point out that it is particularly concerned with these events given that it comes just a few weeks after Ortiz participated in a delegation filing a complaint against the Paraguayan State before the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in Geneva. This complaint is because of the systematic violation of journalists' right to freedom of expression in Paraguay. In particular, the impunity that exists in the country for the murder of 17 journalists was denounced, as was the lack of security for human rights defenders in the country. This last incident is just another example of the lack of security.

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