Paraguay's state-owned TV Publica summarily fired 27 journalists, technicians and other employees who spoke out against the impeachment and removal of President Fernando Lugo, Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday.
Most of the employees fired Tuesday had been subjected to frequent suspensions since the ouster of Lugo in June, the Paris-based group, known as RSF, said in a statement.
Lugo's supporters - and a plurality of Latin American governments - view the Paraguayan Congress' removal of the president after a three-hour trial as a coup.
"An initial purge within the state-owned media created by President Lugo occurred three weeks after the parliamentary 'coup' against him," RSF said.
The 27 journalists, technicians and support personnel were barred from Publica TV's Asuncion studios on Tuesday and told they "cannot continue" to work for the state-owned broadcaster, the press freedom watchdog group said.
Paraguay's Information Ministry said the 27 employees were let go because the agreement under which the Organization of Ibero-American States provided funds to pay their salaries had expired.
The fired workers dismissed the explanation as false, insisting that Publica TV was still receiving financial support from the U.N. Development Program.
"In view of the fait accompli methods used yesterday, we cannot believe the bureaucratic explanation offered by the government's information department," RSF said, describing the firings as a part of a "witch-hunt that began after the president's removal in June."