PEN International, PEN America, PEN Argentina,PEN Quebec and PEN San Miguel de Allende, with the support of other PEN Centres in the Americas, establish the International Observatory “Eye on Nicaragua”. This is a space where the Nicaraguan government’s sustained censorship attempts are exposed and documented.
As of 10 August 2021, Fundamedios joins the International Observatory "Eye on Nicaragua". Fundamedios is an organization committed to promoting freedom of expression, monitor aggressions and risks faced by journalists, and uphold human rights since 2007 in Latin America. In December 2017, Fundamedios was awarded with the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Writer and sociologist Oscar-René Vargas is detained
Relatives of the writer, sociologist and economist Oscar-René Vargas denounced that hooded policemen violently seized him in a house in Managua on 22 November and took him away with his whereabouts are unknown.
Vargas, 76, author of 35 books, was an advisor to the national leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the 1960s, but became a strong critic of Daniel Ortega's regime, especially after the social rebellion of April 2018. That year he was threatened and fled into exile in Costa Rica for fear of imprisonment.
Human rights organizations immediately demanded the immediate release of the writer, who according to his relatives suffers from chronic illnesses that require special care for his health.
Journalist Miguel Mendoza ends hunger strike, hopes to see his daughter
According to his relatives, who visited Mendoza on 20 November, the sports reporter is in good spirits and spiritually strong, despite the fact that he has been in prison for more than a year and has health problems that have not been attended to.
Miguel Mendoza is one of six Nicaraguan journalists who have been in prison since mid-2021, three of them under house arrest. The recent family visit came after 81 days without access to family meetings.
A source close to the station told "Radio Darío", which is working digitally after its closure this year, that the staff managed to get out before the police raid and thus avoided being arrested.
The radio station broadcast on 96.9 FM the news program "En Primicias y En Titulares" and has been off the air since the government occupation. In 2018, journalist Álvaro Montalván was arbitrarily detained and the station's facilities have been besieged and vandalized on several occasions.
Confidencial's Youtube channel attacked
The Youtube channel of the independent publication Confidencial was attacked on 13 November by alleged hackers who impersonated it. Its director, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, explained that through unauthorized access the attackers changed its name to "Tesla Live" and replaced its logo with an image of tycoon Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and Twitter.
Confidential has 398 000 followers on the Youtube platform. "The Confidencial team stopped the transmission immediately, and with access to our accounts, we restored our information and more than 7,000 videos that were hidden during the impersonation," explained Chamorro.
The signal was interrupted as a security measure and was restored a couple of days later.
IAPA appoints two imprisoned journalists to its board of directors
At its last general assembly in late October, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) elected two imprisoned journalists as members of its board of directors: Guatemalan José Rubén Zamora, editor of El Periódico, a prisoner of the government of Alejandro Giammattei, and Nicaraguan Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, general manager of the newspaper La Prensa, closed in 2021 and confiscated by the regime of Daniel Ortega.
In their statement, IAPA stressed that the election of the journalists imprisoned in their respective countries is the first time in the organization’s 80-year history, in an attempt to make visible and denounce their condition as prisoners of conscience of the governments of Guatemala and Nicaragua, respectively.
Holmann, who is regional vice-chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, has been imprisoned since 14 August 2021 and was sentenced to nine years in prison for the alleged crime of money laundering.
Zamora was jailed on 29 July 2022. Police raided the newspaper's headquarters and his bank accounts were seized. He is charged with alleged money laundering, conspiracy, influence peddling and blackmail.
Nicaragua asked to be declared "in contempt" before IACHR Court
Esmeralda Arosemena, rapporteur for Nicaragua of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to declare the Nicaraguan state "in contempt" for failing to comply with various provisional measures ordered by the court in favor of several dozen political prisoners.
The request was presented on 10 November, at a session of the Court convened to study the situation of 45 Nicaraguan prisoners of conscience, most of whom have been held in the police prison known as El Chipote for more than a year, and for whom the court ordered provisional measures to ensure their physical integrity.
Judge Humberto Sierra confirmed absence of the representatives of the Nicaraguan state at the session, whose absence was not officially justified.
Two political prisoners returned from their homes to El Chipote
On 9 November, the government changed the house arrest regime of businessman José Adán Aguerri, former president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), and ordered him to be transferred back to the cells of El Chipote. Two days later, he did the same with the ex-chancellor of the republic, Francisco Aguirre Sacasa.
The authorities gave no explanation for these measures, nor were they officially notified publicly. Both were under house arrest due to health complications.
Business leader Aguerri has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for allegedly "conspiring to undermine national integrity". Unofficially it was said that he had breached "security regulations" inside his house. The police also detained his wife for a few hours for "investigations".
It is not known why the 77-year-old former foreign minister, Aguirre Sacasa, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for the alleged crime of "treason", was returned to the police prison, where dozens of political prisoners have been held for more than a year.
Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International
PA judgment is entered against the son of a member of Nicaraguan PEN Centre
This past September 14, Nicaraguan police broke into the home of Andrea Margarita Del Carmen, director of programs for the PEN Center of Nicaragua, with the intention of taking her captive. Since they didn't find her, they took her son, Gabriel López Del Carmen, as a hostage. Since then he has been held captive in the El Chipote police jail.
Both are facing an accusation for supposed “conspiracy”. A local judge rejected the claims of innocence and illegal detention presented in their defence and scheduled the troial of Gabriel to begin next December 1. Andrea Margarita has not been indicted because she is not in Nicaragua, but the regime has issued an arrest warrant for her.
The executive director of PEN International, Romana Cacchioli, categorically rejected these accusations. “We demand that they withdraw all the charges and that Gabriel López del Carmen be immediately freed. PEN International urges the international community to condemn the arbitrary detentions and protest the systematic violation of human rights in Nicaragua.”
Human rights organizations have been denouncing the taking of hostages, part of a new pattern of repression by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. “In El Chipote they say that my son will only be set free if I give myself up.” Andrea Margarita said in an interview with the program Esta noche, which is directed by the journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro.
More than 30 organizations demanded the immediate liberation of Gabriel López del Carmen, son of the director of programs of PEN Nicaragua. Andrea Margarita del Carmen.
39 false antennas found to monitor cellphones in Nicaragua
Some 39 mobile surveying units capable of intercepting telephone communications were detected in Nicaragua, according to an analysis by the organization South Lighthouse, dedicated to investigating technnologies in the service of human rights, and the Fake Antenna Detection Project study.
The study, published by the daily publication Confidencial this past October 17, revealed the use of mobile surveying equipment, known as IMSI-Catchers or false telecommunication antennas, in Managua and three other cities in Nicaragua.
The false antennas or mobile electronic vigilance devices, were detected in zones near the Augusto C. Sandino airport, the Chancellery of the republic, the staff office of the Nicaraguan army, residences which house embassies and other points.
The IMSI-Catcher devices act as false antennas which intercept the telephone signals and capture the traffic of mobile devices, including conventional calls, the destination or origin of the calls, text messages, codes of SIM cards, location of telephones and in some cases, directly listen to telephone conversations, according to the study.
At least 160 journalists have fled Nicaragua in the last four years
At least 160 Nicaraguan journalists and media workers have gone into exile for reasons of security since April 2018, when the demonstrations broke out against the regime of Daniel Ortega according to a report disseminated this last October 10 by the regional network Voces del Sur. The list includes journalists and media workers announces who work in civil society projects which have been closed and spokespeople of organisms of human rights, Voces del Sur explained. Among them are editors of the daily paper la Prensa and of the digital media Artículo 66, Confidencial, Despacho 505 Divergentes, Expediente Público, 100% Noticias, Nicaragua Actual, Nicaragua Investiga, among others, as well as press correspondents of foreign press and international media. Of the total, at least 121 journalists have gone into exile since May 2021 when a wave of arrests started in the context of the presidential elections of November 7 of last year, which took to jail at least 60 opposition leaders, students, workers, press and professional groups, including seven dissidents who were candidates for the presidency.
Podcast: The assault on freedom of the press intensifies in Latin America and farther
The National Press Club in Washington has published its most recent podcast about the situation of journalists in various region, such as Asia and Latin America, where journalists are ever more harassed, jailed and even assassinated for pursuing the truth wherever the story might take them. In this edition, the co-president of the Broadcast/Podcast team, Adam Konowe, interviewed Rachel Oswald, president of the human rights team of the National Press Club, and Dagmar Thiel, member of this team and director of the group for defense of the freedom of expression in Latin America, Fundamedios, a conversation in which the situation for Nicaraguan journalists is pointed out.
Police arrest a Catholic priest, adding up to 11 jailed
The priest Enrique Martínez Gamboa in the evening of the 13th of October becamethe eleventh Catholic religious that the Nicaraguan regime has jailed in less than six months, in a context of rampant religious persecution. The police broke into the house of the priest's family, located in Managua, where he was living. Sources from the church confirmed that he was moved to the feared El Chipote prison, but up the present the National Police have not given any information about his detention nor the charges against him.
“The priest of the parish of Santa Martha, in Managua, Father Enrique Martínez, was kidnapped. The priests and the Catholic church demand his liberation and the end of the persecution against the church and its clergy, freedom and democracy.” twitted the priest Uriel Vallejos, who went into exile at the end of last August, after four days of confinement in his parish, Divina Misericordia, in the northern province of Matagalpa.
The police entered the home of Father Martínez with violence and tore down the door of the room he he was in.
“They got to the room where he was and started to kick the door. They smashed the door and they took him out hitting and shoving him and then pushed him into the truck. He said to them “Assassin police” and various times shouted “Viva Cristo Rey” and “They are taking me away by force,” sources close to the famiy the family confided to Confidencial.
Eleven priests have been captured in less than six months in Nicaragua where there are two who have been sentenced and a bishop under house arrest . More than 60 nuns and priests have left or been expelled from the country.
Argentine justice opens a criminal investigation against Daniel Ortega
The Argentine justice has opened a criminal investigación of the president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, and of the vice president, Rosario María Murillo, to determine if they are responsible for crimes.
The decision was made on October 5, 2022 by the Argentine federal judge Ariel Lijo, in response to a complaint presented by two lawyers and at the request of the prosecutor Eduardo Taiano, who emphasized that the Argentine federal justice system is entitled to investigate violations of human rights which happen in other countries, because the national constitution recognizes the principle of universal jurisdiction.
As a first measure, the judge prepared a petition to the Nicaraguan justice system to inform the court whether there are open cases of alleged illegal detentions and disappearances of people, as reported.
The Nicaraguan government has not formulated commentary on this matter.
For the prestigious Nicaraguan jurist Uriel Pineda, a consultant for matters of human rights, there is enough evidence to judge Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their circle of power for crimes against humanity. “The exercise of documentation made by the Inter-American Committee of Human Rights (CIDH)in various reports, specifically the report published in December of 2018, which was prepared by the International Group of Independent Experts, is absolutely clear. This report accredits a context of crimes against humanity,” Pineda guaranteed.
OEA demands an end to repression and liberation of political prisoners
The 52nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OEA) demanded the liberation of political prisoners in Nicaragua and the end of the repression against directors and leaders of the Catholic church, in a new resolution about the “political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua,” approved on October 8 in Lima.
In the first point of the document, approved by aclamation, it was resolved “to urge the government of Nicaragua to stop all violent action against the people of the country and to reestabilish fully civil, political rights, religious freedom and the rule of law; to put an end to judicial intimidation and harassment, administrative and of other types, against journalist, especially women and against media of communication and non governmental organizations.
The states members of the OEA demanded that the government of Nicaragua, “ free all the political prisoners, in compliance with the decisions and recommendations of the International Court of Human Rights and the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights.” The text highlights that the “worsening of the economic and political conditions has pushed some 250 thousand Nicaraguans to flee the country since 2018.
The General Assembly of the OEA invited the states members to create a high level commission with the mission “to offer the government of Nicaragua the time to discuss all pertinent matters.” The government has not reacted to the matter.
Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International
PEN Nicaragua communicator accused of alleged "conspiracy".
The Daniel Ortega regime has accused Andrea Margarita Del Carmen, Programme Director of the PEN Nicaragua centre, which was closed down more than a year ago, of allegedly "conspiring" against the state. The police broke into her house to arrest her on 14 September, but she was not at home and the police took her son, Gabriel López Del Carmen, who is imprisoned in El Chipote prison and accused of the same offence. Due to police persecution, Andrea Margarita was forced to leave the country.
PEN International demands that the Nicaraguan regime immediately release Gabriel López Del Carmen and drop all charges against him and our colleague Andrea Margarita, as well as the release of the more than 205 political prisoners unjustly and arbitrarily detained in the country's prisons.
This is part of a new police-judicial onslaught, in which Ortega accused 17 Nicaraguans of conspiracy and spreading false news, among them five relatives of political prisoners who are held as hostages, and four workers of the newspaper La Prensa (a reporter, an administrative secretary and two drivers, both detained two months ago).
Journalist Miguel Mendoza on hunger strike to see his daughter
Journalist Miguel Mendoza is on hunger strike in prison, demanding to be allowed to be visited by his eight-year-old daughter Alejandra. The sports reporter was sentenced to nine years in prison for posting messages critical of the government on Twitter and Facebook and is being held in solitary confinement in El Chipote prison.
His 11 requests to the courts to allow his daughter to visit him have gone unanswered. For this reason, before visiting him once a month, his wife Margine Pozo memorises every word the girl dedicates to him, and records in her mind each of the many drawings she makes, and then tells Mendoza about them.
Only 10 visits from family members have been allowed in 15 months of captivity, and under exaggerated control measures. "When we get to reception they search us, they make me undress, they make me take off my clothes," says Margine Pozo. "For me that's sexual aggression. They do it to prevent us from having messages from the children marked on our bodies," she says.
**In other news**
Daniel Ortega deepens self-isolation
The Nicaraguan government deepened its international isolation by expelling the EU ambassador, breaking diplomatic relations with the Netherlands, and rejecting the arrival of the new ambassador assigned by the United States.
The EU ambassador to Nicaragua, Bettina Muscheidt, left Nicaragua on 1 October after being declared non grata by the government, amid strong criticism by Ortega against the EU, which has called for an end to repression and has applied sanctions against dozens of officials and close associates of the president.
This approach also involves the regime's strong attacks on the OAS, the UN, the United States, the Vatican and countries that have questioned Ortega's fourth consecutive mandate in 2021, with his rivals imprisoned or exiled.
In this context, Ortega announced in late September the severing of relations with the Netherlands, which he accused of being "interventionist" for suspending funding for a hospital. He also vetoed the new US ambassador, Hugo Rodríguez, and attacked Deputy Secretary of State Brian Nichols with racist epithets.
Political analyst Manuel Orozco told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Ortega wants to "self-isolate" from the world to avoid international condemnation of his repressive policies and to avoid being held accountable.
IACHR Court demands the release of 45 political prisoners
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) requested the Nicaraguan government to immediately release 45 people deprived of their freedom for political reasons and held in eight detention centres throughout the country.
The act of notification took place on 4 October via a virtual hearing from the Court's headquarters in Costa Rica, with the participation of representatives of the detainees, but with the notable absence of representatives of the Nicaraguan state.
The Secretary of the IACHR Court, Pablo Saavedra Alessandri, read out the resolution in which precautionary measures were issued to ensure that Nicaragua guarantees the protection of the life, health, integrity, and freedom of the 45 people.
In the text, the Court considers that there are elements to "determine the existence of a situation of extreme gravity" and the need to take measures to protect these people as well as "the rights of the members" of their families.
Human rights collective registers 150 cases of torture since 2019
A report by the Human Rights Collective "Nicaragua Never Again" recorded 150 cases of torture practised in the country "systematically and with impunity" from 2019 to October 2022, by officials and apparatuses of Daniel Ortega's regime.
According to this organisation, "the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo keeps more than 215 people imprisoned for political reasons in Nicaragua, and at least 34 of them are in the cells of the Directorate of Judicial Aid, known as Nuevo Chipote, where the most basic rights of any person deprived of liberty are violated".
In the report, the organisation highlighted the practice of so called "white torture" of political prisoners, which includes isolation, incommunicado detention, lack of food, lack of timely medical attention, denial of reading materials and lack of regular family visits.
In addition, he warned, the inmates endure, on the part of the authorities, "lack of timely and specialised medical care aimed at eroding the physical state of political prisoners".
Priests and lay people accused of "conspiracy" and "spreading false news".
On 4 October, Two weeks after the Attorney General's Office charged the four priests (two seminarians and a cameraman from the Diocese of Matagalpa, who accompanied Bishop Rolando Álvarez for 15 days)the charges against them were announced: "conspiracy" and "propagation of false news".
The exiled lawyer Yader Morazán, said that the accused are the priests Ramiro Tijerino Chávez, rector of the Juan Pablo II University and in charge of the San Juan Bautista parish; José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios, first and second vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral of San Pedro, respectively; and Raúl Antonio Vega. Also seminarians Darvin Leiva Mendoza and Melkin Centeno Sequeira, and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas are under accusation.
The seven have been detained in 'El Chipote' since 19 August, when they were transferred by the police from Matagalpa. Bishop Álvarez is apparently under house arrest and his situation is unknown.
Exiled priest denounces persecution against the Catholic Church
The priest Guillermo Trinidad Blandón, from the parish of Santa Lucía in the department of Boaco,denounced that the government denied him entry to Nicaragua after a trip to Jerusalem.
"I am surprised, I have never had a problem with justice, I am a priest who has simply preached the word of God, I have walked with my people, I have cried with my people, I have suffered with my people, I have laughed with my people", he said.
Father Trinidad affirmed that there is a government persecution "that is not only against me, it is against the whole church", and he hoped that there is in fact a dialogue between the regime and the Vatican, which will help to stop the injustice, repression and harassment of priests, bishops and parish priests in Nicaragua.
Ortega lashes out at the Vatican: the Church is "a perfect dictatorship".
Just days after Pope Francis revealed that there is "a dialogue" between the Holy See and the Nicaraguan regime, Daniel Ortega lashed out at the highest authorities of the Catholic Church, which he called "a perfect dictatorship".
"Since when are priests there to stage coups and since when do they have the authority to talk about democracy?" he asked in a speech in front of hundreds of police officers on 29 September. "Who elects the priests, the bishops, the pope, the cardinals? How many votes? Who gives them?" he continued.
For the former Marxist guerrilla fighter, who now defines himself as a Catholic, the Church cannot speak of democracy, because "the bishops are appointed by by someone who has not been elected by the people, but by a group of cardinals," he said in an obvious allusion to Pope Francis.
"Everything is imposed, it is a dictatorship, the perfect dictatorship, it is a tyranny, the perfect tyranny," Ortega said.
The most recent monitoring report by the newspaper La Prensa and Voces del Sur documented a total of 16 alerts and 72 cases of press freedom violations during the month of August 2022, 65 against media outlets and 7 against individuals.
The report also documents the massive closure of Catholic and community media, and urges the state to maintain the separation of powers.
"It is necessary to stop the cancellation of Catholic media licences as a form of retaliation for differences with the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. The state is obliged to maintain separation of powers and impartiality in each of its bodies, agencies and actions", he said.
Opposition raids and arrests of family members denounced
The regime of Daniel Ortega has implemented a new method in its repressive escalation: the extortive kidnapping and imprisonment of relatives of political opponents, as it was denounced by human rights organisations and opposition organisations.
In mid-September, the police captured the wife, daughter and son-in-law of opposition leader Javier Álvarez Zamora, who hours earlier had crossed the border into Costa Rica to seek international protection. Álvarez revealed that the authorities sent him a message: "we will only release them if you give yourself up".
These arrests coincided with several police raids against activists and members of the political movement UNAMOS in different parts of the country. According to the Nicaraguan Committee for Human Rights (CENIDH), at least 10 people were arrested in less than a week, adding to the list of more than 205 political prisoners held in Nicaragua.
New cases of migratory repression
During the month of September, the Nicaraguan regime prohibited entry into the country of several Nicaraguans. This is a violation of the Constitution, which guarantees people the right to move freely to, from and within the national territory.
One of those affected was feminist sociologist María Teresa Blandón, whose NGO La Corriente was outlawed this year by the government, along with more than 1,800 other non-profit organisations that have suffered the same fate. Blandón went on a working trip abroad and, upon her return, was barred from entering the country.
The same ban was imposed on the priest Juan de Dios García, vicar of the parish of Santo Cristo de Las Colinas in Managua, who had travelled to Miami; and the lawyer Francisco Gutiérrez, proposed defender of the priest Leonardo Urbina, who was imprisoned and prosecuted for alleged sexual abuse.
"There is no legal basis to prevent a national citizen from entering the country. It is shameless and criminal what they have done to those affected", protested Nicaraguan lawyer Yonarqui Martínez.
UN: 45 countries condemn increased repression
A group of 45 member states of the United Nations (UN) denounced, in a joint letter to the UN Human Rights Council, that in Nicaragua the regime of Daniel Ortega "has continued to repress the rights and freedoms" of Nicaraguans.
"Nicaragua has continued to repress the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and religion; this year alone it has cancelled the legal status of 1112 human rights organisations, development, professional associations, including medical associations, among others. Twelve universities have also had their legal personality cancelled, impacting the right to education. The exercise of freedom of opinion and expression also worsened, with more journalists forced into exile, and by the recent closure of 12 Catholic Church radio and television media outlets, especially in Matagalpa", the report noted.
European Parliament demands release of Bishop Álvarez
In a resolution approved with 538 votes in favour, 16 against and 28 abstentions, the European Parliament urged the Nicaraguan regime to restore full respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, religion and belief. The judicial proceedings and sentences imposed on Bishop Rolando Álvarez and other victims of arbitrary detention must be annulled, say MEPs.
In their sixth resolution on Nicaragua in the current legislature, MEPs deplored "the continuing deterioration of the situation and the escalation of repression against the Catholic Church, opposition figures, civil society, human rights defenders, journalists, peasants, students and indigenous peoples", as well as arbitrary arrests "solely for exercising their fundamental freedoms".
MEPs said that the Nicaraguan judicial system lacks independence and is used as an instrument to criminalise the exercise of civil and political rights. The parliament is concerned about the situation of the more than 205 political prisoners detained since April 2018, and denounces the cruel and inhuman treatment to which they are subjected, the report added.
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina. Artist At Risk Connection.
Ortega intensifies the strangulation of free expression
In the month of September, new closures of media of communication, exiles of journalists and closures of non-governmental organizations began, while the government displayed, for the first time, some 27 political prisoners who are kept in El Chipote police jail, whose families denounced the continuing deterioration of their health.
A journalist whose TV channel was closed goes into exile
The Nicaraguan journalist David Mendoza, owner of the closed television channel RB3 in the northern region of Rio Blanco, left Nicaragua at the end of August and solicited asylum in the United States, according to information released to the press. Mendoza said that he crossed the Rio Grande (the border between Mexico and the United States) last August 30 with his wife and his 10 year old son.
The director of the popular channel RB3 denounced in consternation the closure of his television station by the Institute of Telecommunications, as part of the closure of almost a dozen independent press media. Mendoza founded his channel 18 years ago, and it became a point of reference for a huge rural population in the north of Nicaragua.
Another Catholic church radio station is closed
This past 23 August, hours after the clergy of Estelí (in the north), in a communication, condemned the government's repression of the Catholic church, the Institute of Telecommunications and Post (Telcor) cancelled the license to transmit of Radio Stereo Fe, which belonged to this diocese and broadcasted religious content in the northern zone of Nicaragua.
The argument of Telcor was that the frequency of the channel was authorized “as a personal favor” to Monseñor Francisco Valdivia Lazo, who died in 2021, thus the station could no longer keep using that radioelectric spectrum.
“We condemn the closure of our radio where many humble people in our communities fed on the word of God,” said the administration of the radiotransmitter.
State publicity is spread among family and “the loyal”
An investigation of the independent publication Expediente Publico revealed that since the first semester of 2022, the Nicaraguan government has spent more than 180,000 dollars to reward officialist publicity companies, journalists and communication businesses.
Among those rewarded with large sums of money are Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo, the son of the president's wife and director of Channel 8 television, the propagandist Joaquin Absalon Pastora, television channel 23 and radio stations like Nueva Radio Ya and Radio Oxigeno.
The publicity companies Global Art, Nicaprint, Playmarketing and Comuntesa are other groups benefited by financial resources of the state, as a part of the communications strategy managed by the vicepresident and official spokeswoman, Rosario Murillo.
“Ortega is using the resources of the state, the resources of the Nicaraguan people, to propagandize in his own favor,” declared Ricardo Trotti, executive director of IAPA.
The government exhibits political prisoners
On the last two days of August and the first of September, for the first time, the Nicaraguan government exhibited 27 political opponents who have been jailed in the terrible police prison El Chipote, whose family members denouced that they have been kept hungry, out of communication and suffering from various diseases which have not received attention.
The prisoners were taken one by one to the seat of the courts in Managua supposedly for “informative hearings” which do not exist as such in the code of law, according to experts who have been consulted.
In the public exhibition, when questioned by family members or humanitarian organizations, they were shown, among others, Lesther Aleman and Max Jerez, the business leader Michel Healy, the director of the opposition Violeta Granera, and members of the the opposition Tamara Davila, Suyen Barahona and Ana Margarita Vijil, alont with the mythical ex-sandinist commander Dora Maria Tellez, the protagonist of guerrilla feats in the 70s, when Daniel Ortega proclaimed that Nicaragua would never again live under the boots of another dictator like Anastasio Somoza, who up to then was the most cruel and bloody dictator in history.
For the sociologist Sara Henriquez, a defender of human rights and an exile, Ortega exhibited the prisoners to weaken their families' claims that their lives were at risk. “But he achieved the opposite result, because these photos and videos only reinforced evidence that they were being tortured, kept in isolation and starved,” she said.
Among the prisoners presented at these “informative hearings” were the journalists Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, general director of the daily newspaper La Prensa; Miguel Mora, former candidate for the presidency of Nicaragua, and the sportswriter Miguel Mendoza.
The public exhibition of the political prisoners was not a proof of life. It was a confirmation that the regimen submits them to psychological torture by denying them sunlight, healthy food, the right to read a book or communicate with their families. “All this is 'white torture',” said Henriquez.
August, the month of 2022 with the most political jailings
This past August, the Nicaraguan government unleashed the largest wave of detentions for “political motives,” according to the information of the Monitoreo Nacional Azul y Blanco and the Mecanismo para el Reconocimiento de Personas Presas Politicas (Mechanism to Recognize Political Prisoners).
Between August 1 and 28, 31 arbitrary arrests were registered. Of those 15 were for “political motives.” Of the 15 citizens detained, according to the Mechanism, one was deported to his country of origin, six were freed and eight remain in jail; one is under house arrest and seven are in the Dirección de Auxilio Judicial (DAJ), known as El Chipote.
Among the eight people who are stilll detained is Monseñor Rolando Alvarez, bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, who is in house arrest since August 19. Among the seven other people who were accompanying Alvarez in the curia, were jailed and later moved to El Chipote were three priests, two seminarians and a layman.
The number of prisoners of conscience rises to 205
According to the Mecanismo para el Reconocimiento de Personas Presas Politicas, whose cases have been evaluated by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights, the number of people in jail for political reasons has increased to 205.
Of this total, 195 were captured in the last four years, since the protests of April 2018, and ten were already in prison. Of the 205 political prisoners, 20 are women, according to the same report.
In this registry there are 14 people (14 men and 2 women) recognized as political prisoners who were captured between May and August of 2022, but their names have been omitted by request of their families.
In Nicaragua 1,775 non-governmental organizations have been closed
On this last September 1, the Nicaraguan government closed another 100 NGOs. With those the numbers climb to 1,775 NGOs closed since 2018, the great majority of which were illegalized during the year in progress.
“This way the arbitrary closures of all the organizations are consolidated, organizations for community development, for women, for the environment, for autonomy, for indigenous people, for the promotion of social and political rights for the people who are the most vulnerable sector of the country,” denounced the human rights organism Nicaragua nunca mas, formed in Costa Rica by Nicaraguan defenders forced into exile.
Translation, Lucina Kathmann and Alessandro Zagatto
Catholic Church still under siege and massive media closures persist
After 15 days in captivity in the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa (north), where he was surrounded and threatened by the police, Bishop Rolando Álvarez was transferred to Managua and placed under "home custody" (casa por cárcel), while the six priests and two seminarians accompanying him were taken to the El Chipote police prison to be investigated.
The government announced that it is investigating Bishop Álvarez for allegedly "inciting hatred" and "organising violent groups" after he confronted police with a crucifix in his hands in early August. It is feared that he could be imprisoned or forced into exile, while Pope Francis, in a brief and not very forceful message, called for "dialogue and understanding" between the parties. So far the regime has shown no willingness to do so.
As part of its strategy of silencing critical voices in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega's administration went ahead with the closure of independent media:
Radio Darío, from León - closed on 12 August.
The emblematic Radio Darío, a radio station founded in 1949 in the department of León (west) was closed by the government on 12 August 2022. During the 2018 protests, the station denounced violent state repression against civilian protesters and suffered threats, police harassment and an arson attack by Sandinista activists that destroyed part of its facilities.
"Neither shutting down equipment nor arbitrarily withdrawing our licence will silence us or the truth. After 73 years Radio Darío is and will be a voice for justice, democracy and citizens' rights. Far from intimidating us, their actions strengthen us," declared its director and owner, Aníbal Toruño, after announcing that they will continue to work through social networks.
NGTV New Guinea Channel 3 - license withdrawn on 10 August
Two days earlier, on 10 August, the government withdrew the operating licence of NGTV Canal 3 de Nueva Guinea, a television station with a presence in the southern Caribbean region of Nicaragua. As in the other cases, the Telecommunications Institute cited technical arguments.
The channel's management announced that they will continue to exercise their right to information through social networks.
Radio San Carlos - ceased broadcasting on 16 August by government order
The popular San Carlos radio station, which broadcast in the southern department of Río San Juan, ceased transmissions by government order on 16 August. The station broadcast Catholic church religious themes and was run by former Liberal mayor Silvio Pilarte, who was forced into exile after receiving threats from government activists.
Noticiero La Voz de Rivas - sudden cessation on 18 August
On 18 August, it was announced that the news programme La Voz de Rivas, a popular programme on Radio Rumbos, which had been broadcasting for 29 years in the southern Nicaraguan department of Rivas, suddenly ceased broadcasting.
"For the moment, the radio station's management is keeping quiet about the cancellation of this programme, and all that is known is that the order came from Managua", was the media outlet's terse explanation.
Voces del Sur: exodus of journalists continues
In its report for July 2022, the observatory Voces del Sur documented 71 new cases of press freedom violations, 66 of these against media outlets (93 percent).
In that month alone, another 17 Nicaraguan journalists were forced into exile, most of them workers of the closed newspaper La Prensa, which on 13 August marked its first year of closure and police occupation. At least 12 more journalists were internally displaced in order to save their lives.
Fear of total confiscation of the newspaper La Prensa
On 22 August, after 374 days under police occupation, the management of the daily La Prensa denounced that government operators are carrying out "construction work" inside the building, from which they have removed equipment and machinery for an unknown destination.
La Prensa, Nicaragua's oldest daily newspaper, denounced a de facto confiscation of its building, machinery and equipment, all valued at some 10 million dollars. This is an arbitrary and illegal act, as article 44 of the current Constitution guarantees respect for private property and expressly prohibits confiscations.
Translation, Alicia Quiñones and Lucina Kathmann.
Ortega corners the Catholic Church
The last fortnight was marked by an escalation of the campaign of persecution against the independent press and also against the Catholic Church, which materialized in the closure of some 11 media outlets, seven of which were radio stations linked to the Diocese of Matagalpa ( north) led by Bishop Rolando Álvarez, one of the most critical voices against the government.
After several days of police harassment, Álvarez was locked up on August 4 in the episcopal house along with 11 other people (five of them priests), while the Police announced the start of "investigations" for alleged "hatred incitation" and " violent groups organization”.
A similar situation was experienced by Uriel Vallejos, parish priest of Sébaco, municipality of Matagalpa, who was besieged by the Police for several days at the beginning of August, until he was almost secretly evacuated from the place by a group of religious people. The pretext for the siege was the closure of Radio Católica, broadcasting from Sébaco.
Vice President Rosario Murillo lashed out at Catholic priests and, without explicitly mentioning Bishop Álvarez, warned that the government will not tolerate acts of "exhibitionism" or "sins against spirituality." Hours later, the Police announced the investigation against the bishop of Matagalpa and other non identified people.
As of August 9, Álvarez and his collaborators remained virtually kidnapped inside the city's Episcopal Curia, under strict surveillance by police officers and anti-riot troops. However, the bishop stopped sending messages through his social networks, casting a cloud of silence on his situation. It is unclear if the regime will be negotiating with the Vatican its possible exit from the country.
PEN, Fundamedios and Voces del Sur along with other NGOs reject massive and arbitrary closure of media outlets
The organizations that signed this statement rejected the massive and arbitrary closure of radio stations in the department of Matagalpa, including Radio Vos, a community radio with 18 years of work in favour of communities and vulnerable groups in its department, as well as Catholic radio stations Radio Hermanos, Radio Santa Lucía, Radio Católica de Sébaco, Radio Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, Radio Nuestra Señora de Fátima, Radio San José de Matiguás, Radio Monte Carmelo and Radio Alliens.
Read the statement here.
SIP: After closure of media, the "information desert" grows
"With a single blow, the Nicaraguan government created a new information desert in the country, where those closed stations provided a valuable community service to thousands of people," said the president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), Jorge Canahuati.
In a press release issued on August 3, the IAPA protested the massive closure of radio stations and cable TV channels in northern Nicaragua.
This is "part of a campaign that seeks to eliminate all the traces of an independent press and represents a new attack on freedom of worship and thought in that country," Chahuati said in the report.
The IAPA recalled that the closure of media in Matagalpa occurred "simultaneously with a climate of police aggression against Catholic churches and priests."
Poet Gioconda Belli banned from literary festival in Spain
The poet and novelist Gioconda Belli, president of PEN Nicaragua, denounced that the Ortega regime, through its embassy in Spain, the country where she is currently in exile, vetoed her participation in the cultural festival "Celebremos Iberoamérica."
Belli shared on social networks the invitation letter issued by the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) to participate in the event from September 19 to 25. However, she denounced that on August 1 she received a call from that same entity informing her that "Nicaragua's charge d'affaires in Spain vetoed" her inclusion in the festival.
“She said that I do not represent Nicaragua. Obviously I do not represent those who govern us, and to the great honor of not representing that invented country that they represent,” wrote Belli.
“The human misery of wanting Nicaraguan artists to pay homage to them reveals their absurd tantrums and their jealousy,” she added.
NGOs Will Continue Documenting Repression in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan and international human rights organizations denounced that repression has been increasing in the country and warned that they will not stop documenting cases of censorship, persecution and imprisonment that continue to happen under the Ortega government.
At a press conference called on July 29 to analyze the Final Observations of the Committee against Torture (CAT) for the State of Nicaragua, representatives of these entities reiterated that human rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment have been systematically violated in the country.
Tania Agosti, Legal Advisor in Geneva for the Institute of Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) said that the lack of commitment of the State of Nicaragua to comply with its international obligations occurs in a context in which it is accused of "practicing a policy of arbitrary arrests against any type of opposition, while at least 190 people are reported of being deprived of liberty for political reasons, and experiencing inhumane conditions where there are clear signs of torture and violence.”
Government prevents return of renowned Nicaraguan doctor
On August 4, the government prohibited the entry into Nicaragua of prestigious doctor and professor Joaquín Solís Piura (86) , a renowned fighter against the Somocista dictatorship and defender of university autonomy since the 1950s.
Solís Piura was returning to Managua with his wife after a family visit to the United States. Both are Nicaraguans and were prevented from entering their country, without receiving any explanation.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) “strongly condemned this abuse of the human rights of Dr. Solís Piura and his wife "and stressed that the regime has condemned them to forced exile in" a perverse and cruel action ".
OAS and European Union analyze new wave of repression
The Organization of American States (OAS) announced that it will discuss Nicaragua’s situation in a session scheduled for Friday, August 12, in which a resolution rejecting the siege and persecution against the Catholic Church and the independent press is expected to be discussed.
For its part, the Council of the European Union plans to meet on October 15 to review the sanctions imposed against officials of the Ortega regime and their relatives. The adoption of new measures in the face of recent events is not ruled out.
“We continue to monitor the situation and will react appropriately. These latest acts of repression were condemned by the European Union as a new violation of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief,” told the European Union Foreign Service spokesman Peter Stano.
Translation, Alessandro Zagato, Latin America Representative, Artists At Risk Connection
Inter-American Press Agency demands freedom for six imprisoned media workers
On 13 June, the Inter-American Press Agency (IAPA) warned of the deterioration of the state of health of six media workers jailed in Nicaragua and condemned to up to 13 years of detention. It called on the government of Daniel Ortega, which it holds responsible for what may happen, for their “immediate liberation.” They are prisoners of conscience, sentenced in summary trials without due process and for non-existent crimes, the IAPA said, in a press release in which they asked the international community to close ranks in defence of Miguel Mora, Miguel Mendoza, Jaime Arellano, Cristiana Chamorro, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro and Juan Lorenzo Holman, who were all detained between June and August of 2021.
Mora, Mendoza y Holmann are detained in El Chipote police jail in “deplorable conditions,” subjected to solitary confinement, bad food and without medical attention, while Jaime Arellano, Cristiana y Pedro Joaquín Chamorro are under house arrest with grave restrictions and health problems.
“We are holding them responsible before the international community for what may happen, either to them or to the rest of the political prisoners,” the communication continued. The IAPA, to which Nicaragua belongs, emphasized that this is among the main themes to consider in its General Assembly in Madrid from 27-30 October.
Miguel Mendoza's deteriorating health reported
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the family of the sports writer Miguel Mendoza have denounced the “grave health situation” of the writer, who was tortured both physically and psychologically, has lost a lot of weight and is not receiving medical attention at El Chipote.
The CENIDH distributed a video which denounced the situation in which Mendoza, who was detained on June 21, 2021, was condemned to nine years in jail for the supposed crime of “conspiracy,” was completely shaved against his will and has lost 30 pounds owing to the bad food and lack of medical attention, which he needs because he is diabetic.
Mendoza's only “crime” was to publish criticism of the government and demand the release of political prisoners in social media, has not been permitted to see his 8 year old son, whom he has not seen since his arbitrary and illegal arrest.
Journalist Miguel Mora, a former presidential candidate imprisoned in the El Chipote police prison since June 2021, has begun a hunger strike to demand that the Ortega regime allow him to see his son and receive a bible, said his wife, journalist Verónica Chávez.
"He demands to be allowed to see Miguelito, the boy is suffering a lot for not seeing his father and has had mood crises," said Chávez, recalling that the journalist's son has a motor disability and can only get around in a wheelchair.
"I am worried about the repercussions that Miguel may have on his health as a result of the hunger strike, and above all I am worried about Miguelito (because) the emotional damage he is suffering is devastating," she added.
Ortega impedes entry of Guatemalan journalist and anthropologist
The Guatemalan anthropologist, writer and journalist Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj was retained on Sunday, July 24 by immigration agents in the international airport of Nicaragua, as she was arriving to attend an academic event in Managua.
Velásquez Nimatuj denounced the episode at the moment she was retained. “I came to Managa for a meeting and as I was getting off the airplane they detained me and took everything away from me. I was left with only a telephone. An agent of the government stopped me and took everything.” She added that she was stopped in an office in the airport before being deported from the country. She was not told the reason for this.
In denouncing the retention and expulsion of Velásquez, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, issued “a call to the authorities of the Nicaraguan government to stop arbitrary detentions and harassment of people who are participating actively in public life.
**From other sources**
A Catholic priest is jailed, the second in two months
The priest José Leonardo Urbina, who was pastor of Perpetual Help church and an episcopal vicar of Boaco (in the center of the country) was jailed and tried on July 14 for the alleged crime of rape of an adolescent.
Urbina was detained by police after they received denunciations by relatives of the minor. A local judge handed down the maximum sentence (30 years in jail) against the priest, while parishioners of the area declared his innocence and said it was a setup as part of the Ortega regime's campaign of persecution against the Catholic church.
This is the second Catholic cleric who has been jailed in the past tow months. On June 24 the Manuel Salvador García, a priest of the parish of Calvary church, in Nandaime, (in the south) was arrested and tried in a case which was full of irregularities and contradictory testimony, accused of “armed threats” against five Sandinist activists of that area, who had previously thrown rocks at the church.
Urnas Abiertas denounces an increment in political violence
At least 385 occasions of political violence have been tegistered in Nicaragua during the first semester of this year, according to an analysis presented on July 26 by the civilian electoral observatory Urnas Abiertas.
The document refers to denunciations received from January 1 to June 30 of this year. The cases come from all departments and autonomous regions of the country, and from 52 of the 153 counties (33.98%). Only three of these cases happened outside Nicaragua “but under the repressive structure coodinated by the governor,” it indicated. According to the observatory, 5 out of 10 cases reported refer to harassment and the rest are categorized as judicial persecution (42), administrative measures (40), aggression (37), torture and mistreatment (31), detention (24), death and other (10). •
Translation, Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International
New Attack by Officials Against the Daily Newspaper La prensa
On July 7, 2022, the government of Ortega and Murillo attacked the daily newspaper LaPrensa again, pursuing a newspaper team from this medium which was covering the expulsion of 18 nuns from the order of Missionaries of Charity, founded by Saint Theresa of Calcutta, whose group had been previously closed down by Parliament.
The directors of the newspaper Mario Sánchez and Carlos Lam were arrested and put in preventive confinement for three months “pending investigations,” while the homes of a journalist and a photographer were broken into by police the same night.
La Prensa has circulated only online since August of 2021, when their offices were occupied by police, who remain in the building, and its general director, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, was arrested and condemned to nine years imprisonment, supposedly for money-laundering.
“We are holding the regime responsible for what might happen to each one of those workers from La Prensa, who are victims of abuse, intolerance and disrespect of their fundamental rights,” said Jorge Canahuati, president of the Inter-American Press Agency, who protested against the new attack.
Censorship even of traffic accidents
The report “Violations to Freedom of the Press” for the month of June 2022, drawn up by Voices of the South, exposed new restrictive measures of the Nicaraguan government against the independent press, including forbidding coverage of traffic accidents.
The report documented seven alerts and followed up on two of them in 2021. In total 67 cases of violations of freedom of the press were reported.
Of especial note was that the journalist Jacdiel Rivera, a correspondent for Channel 10 in the department of Madriz (in the north), was a victim of obstruction of his work when he tried to cover a supposed seizure of millions of dollars and tried to video images about a traffic accident.
“In the middle of the 21st century it is inconceivable that in Nicaragua, covering traffic accidents should be censored,” Voces del Sur emphasized. Its report assembled cases of censorship, closure of media, harassment and migratory retrictions for journalists during the past month of June.
“We regret the increase in forced exile and demand that the state safeguard the integrity of those who are staying in the country and are doing courageous, ethical and humane journalism,” the document said.
Gioconda Belli: Daniel Ortega is trying to “control everything”
The poet and novelist Gioconda Belli, president of the now-closed PEN Center of Nicaragua, repeated her condemnation of the recent closure of the Nicaraguan Academy of the Language, to which she belongs, and other civil organizations, and asserted that the objective of the regime of Daniel Ortega is to “control everything.”
“Control everything, that's what they're trying to do: not to leave cracks which afford independence to the society and let them operate autonomously for their own purposes. It is a government which is very concerned about the use of the Nicaraguan people might make of their liberty. So they prevent them from having it,” said Belli in an interview with the Uruguayan PEN Centre.
Asked about whether the distinction Illustrious Visitor to Montevideo, which was given to Ortega when he visited the Uruguayan capital in 2018, should be retained, she said, “It is not up to me to decide, but whoever is documenting what has happened in Nicaragua since 2018 will realize that the person they gave the honor to is now a bloody dictator of the sort that we have not seen in the Americas for decades.
Eighteen women missionaries of Charity of Mother Theresa of Calcutta are expelled
A delegation of 18 nuns of the Missionaries of Charity order were expelled to Costa Rica this July 7 in vehicles under guard by the Migratory Police.
The religious association was obliged to abandon Nicaragua after the inexplicable closure of their order, founded by Mother Theresa of Calcutta in Nicaragua in the 1980s, during the first governmental term of Ortega.
In an interview given to the agency Sir, the nuns said they were surprised by the decision and the order to abandon the country immediately. “We have never done political activity. Our idea has always been to serve the poor. Of course, the country is suffering, especially the church which is persecuted. There is no freedom, but the economic situation is also difficult, and more and more there are insufficient jobs,” they said from Costa Rica, where they were received by the bishop of Tilaran-Liberia and later found lodging with the Missionaries of Charity of Saint Joseph.
The government tried to avoid press coverage of their departure and in revenge they pursued the team from La Prensa which accompanied the nuns to the border of Peñas Blancas (in the south)
The entrance of the “Caravan for Life” is blocked
One day after the delegation of nuns were expelled, the government blocked the entrance of a delegation of nine deputies from leftist Latin American parties who were trying to clarify the situation of the almost 190 political prisoners who are still in various jails in the country. 180 of them have been detained since the protests of 2018.
Mariano Rosa, coordinator of the call “Commission for life and liberty of the political prisoners in Nicaragua” said that the police of the country mobilized some 300 forces to block entrance at the frontier when they tried to get in from the customs booth at Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica.
“They organized a tremendous military operation of police and paramilitary elements, with an attitude that was intimidating and menacing,” Rosa denounced. “With this action the government shows that it is a dictatorship,” added the leftist legislator.
The rest of the deputies who tried to visit the country belong to leftist parties in Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Panama. The delegation announced that it will start a campaign to “denounce to the world the violations of human rights” on the part of the government fo Ortega and Murillo.
Humboldt Center and La Corriente are Occupied
This same Friday the police occupied the installations of the ecological non-governmental organization Humboldt Center and of the feminist organization La Corriente. Both were closed down, in March and May of this year respectively, as part of the closure of the almost 900 NGOs, the great majority of which were closed during the last year, from among the almost 6000 non profit associations in the country.
“Clearly, the cancellation of our organizations and taking over our installations is an illegal act which attacks our freedom of association” La Corriente denounced. •
Translation, Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International
Call for the release of Miguel Mendoza and Miguel Mora one year after their imprisonment
22 June 2022
Journalists Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza have been arbitrarily detained for one year. The founder of 100% Noticias was imprisoned for the second time on 20 June 2021. Only one day later, the police arrested the sports reporter. Both were detained in the hunt launched by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo prior to the presidential elections in November last year.
On 21 June 2022, members of PCIN (Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua), demanded the immediate release of Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza, "because the dissemination of thought is a constitutional right and should never be subject to criminalisation. These are 365 days of systematic violations of their fundamental rights," the PCIN group said in a statement.
Bachelet warns of continuing deterioration of human rights in Nicaragua
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, denounced the continuing deterioration of the situation in Nicaragua under the government of Daniel Ortega, with arbitrary detentions, persecution, closure of NGOs and a massive forced exile of Nicaraguan citizens.
In an updated report presented to the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 16 June, Bachelet rejected the imprisonment of more than 180 people following the political crisis that erupted with the 2018 protests, which repression left some 355 people dead.
"I take this opportunity to reiterate my request to the competent authorities to ensure the immediate release of all persons arbitrarily detained and to guarantee their physical and psychological integrity," she said, denouncing deplorable conditions of detention.
She added that since May 2022 "the police have resumed harassment against Catholic priests, persistently following and intimidating them", while civic space has shrunk "dramatically" following the closure of at least 12 private universities and "388 non-governmental organisations since the beginning of this year, bringing the total to at least 454 since November 2018."
Bachelet said that "the number of Nicaraguans leaving the country is rising to unprecedented numbers", even higher than those recorded in the 1980s, when Nicaragua was experiencing a civil war.
Univision journalist Tifani Roberts barred from entering Nicaragua
The Nicaraguan government has banned the entry of US-Nicaraguan journalist Tifani Roberts of the US network Univision, citing the authorities' refusal to accept her PCR test.
Roberts tried to travel from the United States to visit her mother, who lives in Managua, on 16 June. On her Twitter account, the journalist reported that the Colombian airline Avianca prevented her from boarding the flight after notifying her that she was not allowed to enter her country.
Juan Pappier, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the decision was "reminiscent of similar practices in Cuba" and openly violated the human rights of Roberts, who as a Nicaraguan national should not be prevented from entering the country.
IAPA condemns closure of Trinchera de la Noticia
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the recent closure and confiscation of the Nicaraguan news portal Trinchera de la Noticia and noted that this is the fourth media outlet to be officially shut down in that country as a result of "hostile actions by the Nicaraguan government".
The Miami-based IAPA stressed that this attack on the independent press is a "reprisal for its criticism of the regime".
"This is the same rigged procedure, protected by a judicial system without independence and submissive to political power, used to close the channel 100 % Noticias, the daily La Prensa and Confidencial, and to convict six journalists," said Jorge Canahuati, IAPA president.
"We reaffirm what was expressed in the Declaration on Nicaragua in which 27 national and international press organisations pledged to fight jointly for freedom of expression and press freedom in the country and against the dictatorship in Nicaragua," said Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.
PEN Uruguay team interviews journalist Wilfredo Miranda
PEN Uruguay has published an interview with Nicaraguan reporter Wilfredo Milranda, in which he discusses the situation of Nicaraguan journalism.
Wilfredo Miranda Aburto was born in 1991 in Nicaragua. He is barely 30 years old, but by the age of 27 he had already received the prestigious Ibero-American Award at the King of Spain International Journalism Awards (2019), from Agencia EFE and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for his report "They were shooting with precision: to kill!"
OHCHR demands to open El Chipote prison to international scrutiny
Daniel Ortega's regime has not only radicalised repression in Nicaragua, but is also defying the mandate of 20 member countries of the UN Human Rights Council by preventing the entry of the Group of Independent Experts appointed to investigate human rights violations. This decision "leads nowhere", on the contrary, it deepens the national crisis, said the representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Central America (OHCHR), Alberto Brunori.
In an interview with the television programme Esta Semana, Brunori referred to the most recent update of High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet's oral report to the UN Human Rights Council, in which she expresses her Office's concern about the prison conditions of political prisoners, the annulment of freedom of association in the country, the persecution of priests and bishops of the Catholic Church, and the increase in migration as a consequence of the socio-political crisis.
The regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office warns of the need for international human rights organisations to return to the country to help overcome the crisis. "We would like to be able to discuss these data personally (with the government) and see how to overcome the violations that we are detecting and that are reported to us," he said.
Businesses closed in handicrafts market for selling "symbols of April".
Keyrings with the image of Lesther Alemán, the university student convicted of challenging Daniel Ortega in 2018 and who has been imprisoned for almost a year, was the reason for the Municipality of Managua to close a handicrafts stall in the Roberto Huembes market, one of the capital's visited shopping centres most by tourists.
Traders who omitted their names for fear told the digital publication Divergentes that the inspection began in early June in the sections that sell handicrafts, where officials from the mayor's office ordered the temporary closure of at least three businesses and fined them 5,000 córdobas (about $140) for allegedly committing a "crime" by selling merchandise alluding to the April 2018 rebellion.
Other products questioned by government envoys included T-shirts with slogans such as "Viva Nicaragua libre" and "Que se rinda tu madre", as well as dolls with the Nicaraguan flag, which have become a symbol of the protests against Ortega despite being the country's official flag.
US sanctions Nicaraguan state mining company
The US government on 17 June sanctioned Nicaragua's state mining company for allegedly helping private partners of Daniel Ortega's government pocket millions of dollars in bribes to officials through its gold exports.
The sanctions against Empresa Nicaragüense de Minas (ENIMINAS) also include Ruy López Delgado, the chairman of its board of directors.
The measure announced by the Treasury Department means that neither the company nor the official may engage in commercial or financial transactions of any kind in the United States and that their assets are frozen in the United States.
The US claims that "the Ortega-Murillo regime manipulated elections" through "arbitrary imprisonment of the political opposition, blocking of political parties, closure of independent media, and intimidation of civil society", and is deepening its relationship with Russia during the war with Ukraine, as well as using and alleging that gold export revenues were being used to enrich its officials.
Nicaragua authorised the entry of Russian troops
With the vote of 78 legislators, on 14 June 2022, Russian troops were authorised to enter Nicaragua. According to decree 10-2022, the Russian troops will be able to participate from 1 July in "training and exchange exercises in humanitarian aid operations, search, rescue and rescue missions in emergency situations or natural disasters, with the Nicaraguan Army's land forces, Air Force and Naval Force".
It also provides for the "exchange of experiences, training, operations against illicit activities in maritime areas in the Caribbean Sea and jurisdictional waters in the Pacific Ocean of Nicaragua, with the Nicaraguan Army Naval Force" and the "exchange of experiences and operational communication with ships and aircraft of the Nicaraguan Army in the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime".
This has caused concern among various political actors. "Inviting Russian forces, Russian troops to exercises, even if they are humanitarian, at a time when that country is invading a neighbouring country and committing human rights violations in Ukraine, seems to us to be a provocation on the part of the Nicaraguan regime, and is a bit dangerous for us," Brian A. Nichols, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, declared to the German agency Deutsche Welle.•
Closure and confiscation of media outlets continues
The repressive actions against the independent press continued in the last week in Nicaragua, with the closure, police occupation and confiscation of the digital newspaper Trinchera de la Noticia. This is the fourth media outlet to be shut down by the Ortega regime since 2018, following the closure of the channel 100% Noticias, the daily La Prensa, and Confidencial, whose editorial office was confiscated twice and its director, journalist Carlos F. Chamorro, criminalised and forced into exile.
Trinchera de la Noticia" closed down and its premises occupied
The offices of "Trinchera de la Noticia" occupied by the police on 10 June 2022
On 10 June, Daniel Ortega's government dissolved the Trinchera de la Noticia Society "for disturbing social peace" through the Property and Commercial Property Registry, and ordered the definitive closure of the media outlet, whose building was violently occupied by police officers. Its assets, cash, bank accounts and movable property were placed "in police custody".
In a notice from the Property Registry given to the media outlet's director, journalist María Alicia Talavera, the regime states that the company was sanctioned "for disturbing the social peace and refusing to present information within the established time or presenting it incompletely or inaccurately".
At the time of the seizure of the building, police officers closed all access roads to the media outlet, but minutes later they retreated into the building. The police broke into the building where two employees, the receptionist and the accountant, were present and were "aggressively removed," said Talavera minutes after the assault.
Trinchera de la Noticia was founded in 1999 by renowned journalist Xavier Reyes Alba, who died a year ago.
Cyber-attacks against independent media on the rise
The strategy of harassment and persecution of independent journalism is also developing at the cyber level. In its most recent report, the organisation Voces del Sur denounced that an entire economic and human investment is directed towards this objective.
Last May, three crimes qualified as "internet restrictions" were reported, the first one against the head of press of Radio La Costeñisima, Kalúa Salazar, who denounced an attempt to hack her Facebook account. The second case was reported by the digital media Actualidad con Dino Andino, which involved the so-called "Page Community Standard" in an attempt to usurp her identity on the same social network.
Also in May, the director of the digital media Nicaragua Investiga, Jennifer Ortiz, denounced Grupo Regional Promerica, linked to a private bank, for promoting a campaign of complaints with unjustified claims against the hosting provider, until the latter withdrew them from the internet.
***IN OTHER NEWS***
Ortega rejects entry of UN Commission of Experts
As expected, the Ortega government rejected outright the request of the Commission of Independent Experts appointed by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN) to cooperate with its mandate to investigate human rights violations that occurred in Nicaragua between 2018 and 2022.
European diplomatic sources confirmed to the publication Confidential that the authorities, through its ambassador in Geneva, refused to have any contact with the Commission and to allow it to enter the country, alleging that this entity is "partial and biased, because it represents an attack against Nicaragua, aligned to the interests of the United States".
National and international human rights defenders in Nicaragua regretted the government's official rejection. However, they believe that the Group of Experts will succeed in carrying out its mandate.
"Yes, it is regrettable that they will not enter, but they are going to fulfil their mandate, there is already a history of experts that the government did not let in," said Dr Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, president of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (Cenidh), whose legal status was cancelled by the Ortega regime in December 2018.
Nicaraguans demand freedom for political prisoners during the IX Summit of the Americas
Members of Nicaraguan civil society repressed by Daniel Ortega were present during the IX Summit of the Americas, which took place in Los Angeles, California from 6 to 10 June 2022.
Through participation in civil society forums, Nicaraguan civic leaders in exile highlighted the regime's escalating repression, the mass exodus of Nicaraguans, the onslaught against the independent press and the multiple human rights violations committed since 2018.
A civil society delegation met with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), to expose human rights violations by the authorities.
In addition, the situation of 184 political prisoners was the subject of interventions during the Summit of the Americas, as well as in parallel events of civil society, international organisations and foundations. Civil society organisations, activists and international organisations demanded the release of political prisoners.
"In Nicaragua, journalists and political opposition candidates Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza, newspaper editor Juan Lorenzo Holmann, are currently unjustly imprisoned", was commented in the various meetings and forums.
No end to persecution in Nicaragua
Young independent journalist reported exiled
Young Nicaraguan journalist Elba Ileana Molina was forced to leave the country after receiving threats from activists linked to the government, according to online media.
Molina was a correspondent for the privately-owned Canal 10 in the department of Carazo, south of the capital, where she had been harassed for months for her reporting.
In November 2021, the reporter's house was marked with the words "You are under surveillance" and the acronyms FSLN and PLOMO (death), as Molina denounced at the time on social media.
IAPA to address the situation in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba with US congressmen
Denouncing the cases of "persecution, repression and violence in Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela" against the press is one of the objectives of the meetings between US congressmen and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) that will take place in Washington DC this week.
The IAPA said that a delegation will be in the US capital from 24 to 26 May, where it will meet with legislators to learn first-hand their position on the violence suffered by journalists in the countries of the region.
According to the IAPA, the trip will also serve to learn "the position and commitment of members of Congress on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act and the Journalism Sustainability Act.
The IAPA delegation, headed by IAPA President Jorge Canahuati, will also meet with the Group of Friends of Freedom of Expression and Journalism of the Organisation of American States (OAS), as well as with the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Pedro Vaca.
*** IN OTHER NEWS ***
The Catholic Church is increasingly being harassed and persecuted
The Nicaraguan government through the National Police this week increased its surveillance and siege against figures of the Catholic Church, among them Bishop Rolando Álvarez, a fierce critic of the regime, who began an indefinite fast in a church in Managua in protest against the "police persecution" against him, as he denounced.
"I am beginning a fast with water and saline solution, indefinitely, until the National Police, through the president or the vice-president of the Episcopal Conference, let me know that they will respect my family's privacy," said the prelate after 24 hours of continuous persecution by the police.
Álvarez's complaint was joined this week by those of other Catholic priests. Father Harving Padilla, parish priest of a church in Masaya, near the capital, also denounced that the police are constantly watching him, while parish priest Uriel Vallejos, from the northern town of Sébaco, said he was being "harassed".
In addition, through the state-owned Telecommunications and Postal Institute (Telcor), the government ordered the Claro telephone company to remove the church-owned Canal Católico, or Catholic Channel 51, from its programming, after which the station was immediately taken off the air.
UN team of experts ready to investigate human rights violations
The UN Human Rights Council appointed its team of experts to investigate cases of human rights violations in Nicaragua over the past four years by the government of Daniel Ortega.
"We welcome Jan-Michael Simon, Ángela Buitrago and Alexandro Álvarez, human rights experts who will investigate the serious violations committed since 2018," said the lawyer of the Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Nunca Más, Juan Carlos Arce.
The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), the only organisation of its kind that continues to work from Nicaragua, also welcomed the tripartite group, whose creation was approved at the most recent session of the Council in March this year, and whose mission will be to "collect, preserve and analyse information and evidence" on possible human rights violations since the outbreak of the social rebellion in April 2018.
Closure of Radio Católica de Bluefields
On 25 May 2022, it was announced that Radio Católica de Bluefields suspended broadcasting due to the complex economic and survival conditions for independent media in Nicaragua, coupled with the constant siege by the authorities.
Translation, Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International
More than 1,500 attacks on press freedom in one year
Under siege in their own country or as refugees in other parts of the world, Nicaragua's independent journalists commemorated World Press Freedom Day, demanding the release of their detained colleagues and an end to government attacks on the right of citizens to impart and receive information.
On 3 May, the trade union organisation Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua (PCIN) presented a report that reported at least 1,520 attacks on journalists and media outlets in Nicaragua during 2021, a year in which the human rights crisis in the country deepened.
According to the report, 29 of the 205 complaints documented throughout the year (14.14%) occurred in November, in the context of the general elections, aimed at silencing criticism of an electoral process full of irregularities, which led to the third consecutive re-election of President Daniel Ortega after the imprisonment of his main political rivals.
To access the live broadcast of the report, click here.
Orteguismo approves the cancellation of 50 new NGOs in Nicaragua
With 75 votes in favour, deputies in the National Assembly on 4 May cancelled the legal status of 50 non-profit organisations in Nicaragua.
According to the Ministry of the Interior (MIGOB), the 50 NGOs allegedly "have failed to comply with their obligations," among them that they did not report their financial statements according to fiscal periods with detailed breakdowns of income, expenses, balance sheet and details of donations (origin, provenance and final beneficiary), nor their boards of directors.
Among those affected are organisations and foundations that advocate for the defence of human rights, feminists and historiography institutes. These organisations join 77 others that also suffered the effects of the enactment of the repressive regulation law passed last April. It comes at a time when Managua has begun the process to leave the OAS. Relatives of political prisoners denounce deplorable conditions and the United States has avoided inviting the country to the Summit of the Americas.
Government imposes "house for prison" on journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro
The Nicaraguan government released opposition journalist and former deputy Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios from prison and transferred him to his home under "house arrest" due to his deteriorating health conditions after more than 300 days in prison, his relatives said.
Chamorro Barrios, 70, is the eldest son of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and the assassinated director of La Prensa, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal. He was arrested in June 2021 on charges of "carrying out acts that undermine the sovereignty of Nicaragua," and sentenced to nine years in prison along with his sister Cristiana Chamorro, former presidential candidate and former president of the Violeta Chamorro Foundation, who has been under house arrest since 2 June 2021.
Ortega's son projected as government press coordinator
Daniel Edmundo Ortega, one of the sons of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo who until now had a more "low profile" in government spheres and social networks, was appointed "Media Coordinator of the Communication and Citizenship Council of Nicaragua".
Participating in a round table discussion with representatives of Russian media, the son of the presidential couple described independent media journalists as "mercenaries" and accused them of "criminal practices" financed by the United States. •
Translation, Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International
More attacks on free expression in Nicaragua
New attacks on press freedom, the forced banishment of Nicaraguan artists and the deportation of foreign journalists trying to enter the country marked the events of the last week in Nicaragua, where the government also ordered the surprise closure of the headquarters of the Organisation of American States (OAS), the expulsion of its officials and the confiscation of its building in Managua.
Vice President Rosario Murillo, Daniel Ortega's wife, said that the building where the offices "of the deplorable OAS, the despicable OAS, were located, has been declared of public utility and will pass to the State of Nicaragua", in order to build a "museum of infamy" on the site.
Journalists report new attack
At least 175 attacks on freedom of the press and freedom of expression were documented by the trade union organisation Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua (PCIN) in the period January-March this year.
The most recent report of the Observatorio de Agresiones a la Libertad de Prensa Independiente, presented on 21 April, warns that attacks on free journalism persist, having counted 78 complaints: 18 in January, 34 in February and 26 in March.
The document points out that in Nicaragua "the profession" of journalist has been "criminalised," with men and women in the press being prosecuted and sentenced "for reporting or for being a voice critical of Daniel Ortega's government". It recalls that to date, journalists Miguel Mora, Miguel Mendoza, Cristiana Chamorro, Jaime Arellano (both under house arrest), Pedro Joaquín Chamorro and Juan Lorenzo Holman Chamorro are still in prison.
Government expels journalists from Mega TV in Miami
Cuban-born journalist Camilo Loret de Mola denounced that Nicaraguan government officials prevented him from entering the country and sent him back to Miami on 24 April.
De Mola was expelled without explanation along with his cameraman, César Torero, by alleged immigration officials at Managua's Sandino airport, the journalist told Nicaraguan online media.
"It was no use asking to speak to a boss or a supervisor, the guys dressed in civilian clothes and without any identification insisted that they were the bosses. They offended me and I offended them, they disrespected me and I even told them how badly they would die. Then they told me that they were taking me prisoner, but in reality, they pushed us onto the plane," the reporter explained.
The journalists documented their expulsion in a video that they later reproduced on social media.
Ortega sends imprisoned musicians into exile
Music producer Salvador Espinoza and his wife Xóchitl Tapia, both Nicaraguan owners of the music promoter Saxo Producciones, who were arrested on 12 April along with two other artists, were released from prison and expelled from Nicaragua on 21 April.
Norma Rivera, mother of Salvador Espinoza, said that the government contacted relatives of the musicians to tell them that "if they have an (air) ticket, we will let them go". After agreeing to leave, police officers searched for their passports. "They took them from the jail to the airport and nobody saw them," said Rivera, who received his son, daughter-in-law and five-year-old grandson in Germany, where he lives.
Days earlier, musician and singer-songwriter Josué Monroy and producer Carlos Canales (Costa Rican) had been expelled from Nicaragua. The group was arrested for having offered a pop rock concert in which they sang a song dedicated to the protests of April 2018.
"Artists are being banished from Nicaragua", protested lawyer Yonarqui Martínez, defender of political prisoners during the 2018 protests. The jurist recalled that the Constitution establishes that Nicaraguans cannot be banned from entering or leaving their country, but she did not rule out that Ortega will ask Parliament to legalise banishment through an upcoming reform of the Penal Code.•
Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vicepresident of PEN International.
Nicaragua, a country turned into a prison
Government closes 25 more NGOs, including two cultural organisations
Government closes 25 more NGOs, including two cultural organisations
On Wednesday 20 April, as part of its strategy of repression and silence, Daniel Ortega's government closed another 25 NGOs, including two entities linked to leading figures in Nicaraguan culture: the Luisa Mercado Foundation, created by writer Sergio Ramírez, and the Association for the Development of Solentiname, founded by poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal, who died in January 2020.
The Sandinista Front-dominated Parliament cancelled the legal status of the NGOs, alleging irregularities in their financial status. Most of the closed organisations were run by artists, businessmen, professionals and other civil society representatives who are critical of the government.
The list includes the Coordinadora de la Niñez y la Adolescencia (Codeni), the Centro de Derechos Constitucionales, the Cohen Foundation, the Asociación Nicaragüense de Cinematografía, the Centro de Comunicación y Educación Popular and the Comisión Permanente de Derechos Humanos (CPDH), the last legally functioning civil rights body in the country.
Since 2018, Ortega has closed down some 140 NGOs that promoted projects in the country.
Musician Carlos Luis Mejía prevented from entering the country
Nicaraguan immigration authorities prevented Nicaraguan musician Carlos Luis Mejía Rodríguez, son of popular singer-songwriter Carlos Mejía Godoy, from entering the country when he was returning from the United States after a family visit.
According to press reports confirmed by the young artist, Mejía Rodríguez was not allowed to board a flight that had made a stopover in San Salvador and was bound for Managua on 17 April 2022.
The brothers Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, who have a long cultural career in Nicaragua, have been critical of the regime and have been threatened and forced into exile since the 2018 protests.
In recent months, the government has resorted to confiscating passports and preventing a large number of citizens from leaving the country, actions that violate article 31 of the Nicaraguan Constitution, which states that "Nicaraguans have the right to circulate and establish their residence in any part of the national territory, and to freely enter and leave the country".
Costa Rican artist deported after being detained with band
Costa Rican-born music producer Carlos Canales, arrested along with three other artists in a police raid on 12 April, was deported to Costa Rica five days after his arrest.
The virtual space La Antesala, which Canales directed, informed in a brief statement that the artist is well. At the same time, the organisation announced the suspension of all its cultural activities in Nicaragua.
Canales was captured by police officers along with Josué Monroy, lead singer of the alternative rock-pop band Monroy & Surmenage, and his colleagues Salvador Espinoza and Xóchitl Tapia, members of Saxo Producciones. The capture, which was not confirmed by the government, occurred days after a concert in which the artists paid tribute to the young people killed in the 2018 protests.
PEN America released a statement on Costa Rican artists.
A country turned into a prison four years after the protests
On 18 April 2018, social protests broke out in Nicaragua. Since then, the government has been determined to repress, silence, send into exile, and imprison citizens, journalists, creators, and anyone who criticises the government and its policies. The path of these years has turned Nicaragua into a prison.
Because of this law, the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, founded in 1990, decided to suspend operations. It refused to accept the imposition of an "unconstitutional law" that required the foundation to register as a foreign agent, violating principles of freedom of organization. In 2021, the independent press faced another wave of violations and harassment. According to a "Report on Violations of Press Freedom 2021" by Voces del Sur, 2021 has been the most dangerous year for freedom of expression in Nicaragua, since the 2018 repression. There were 702 cases of abuse of power and violence against the press, a number that almost equals the 712 incidents of 2018, according to the report.
There are 181 political prisoners sitting in Nicaraguan prisons, according to the latest update of the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua, published by the Spanish news agency EFE. Many of them have been imprisoned since 2018. The journalists who have been detained as political prisoners in the Nuevo Chipote prison since mid-2021 are Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, general manager of the newspaper La Prensa; Miguel Mora, former director of 100% Noticias and former candidate for the presidency in 2021, Miguel Mendoza, Jaime Arellano, and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro.
Among the imprisoned journalists there is also Cristiana Chamorro, former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy and former candidate for the presidency in 2021, who is under house arrest.
Read the full report by journalist Paola Nalvalte at the following link. •
A few days before the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of the 18 April protests, the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo stepped up repression against opponents, political prisoners and relatives of people killed during the civic rebellion, ordering raids and sieges on their homes.
The climax of the new escalation occurred on the afternoon of 12 April, when four musicians and producers of a rock-pop band critical of the regime were arrested by the police in different parts of Managua. At the same time, threats against journalists and independent media have continued.
Four members of band arrested after "critical" concert
Popular musician Josué Monroy, a member of the alternative rock-pop band Monroy & Surmenage, was arrested by the police on 12 April along with three of his colleagues, reportedly for having sung a song alluding to the April 2018 protests.
According to local media, Monroy gave a concert in which he sang the song "En el ojo del huracán", which pays tribute to the 2018 civic rebellion. "We will not shut up" and "April is not forgotten" are some of the phrases contained in the song.
Simultaneously to the arrest of Josué Monroy, his colleagues Leonardo Canales, Salvador Espinoza and Xóchitl Tapia, the latter two members of Saxo Producciones, were arrested. The arrests were not immediately confirmed by the police, but photos and videos of the incident circulated on social networks.
Voces del Sur: violations of freedom of the press continue
The persecution of independent media and journalists by the Nicaraguan government continues. According to the most recent report by the organisation Voces del Sur, during the month of March, 103 violations of press freedom were documented: 94 were perpetrated against media outlets (91.2%), 8 against individuals (7.8%) and 1 against a journalists' union (1%).
Eight alerts were also registered and four alerts generated in previous months were followed up. The organisation also received three complaints from victims who asked not to make them public for fear of reprisals, the report said.
It noted that, for the third consecutive month, the state continues to top the list of perpetrators, followed by unidentified and non-state aggressors. Seven journalists and communicators remain imprisoned since 2021, while at least 72 journalists and independent media owners have been forced into exile between June 2021 and March 2022.
Costa Rican professor banned from entering the country
Costa Rican professor Carlos Sandoval García denounced that the Nicaraguan government prevented him from entering the country for allegedly refusing to provide information about the people he would be meeting during his stay in Managua.
Sandoval said he tried to enter Nicaragua on 31 March at the Peñas Blancas border post, where he was pulled out from the queue of passengers by immigration officials who questioned him about the meetings he would be holding in the country.
"Of course I knew that what they wanted was to get my contacts there and that, if I had given them to those officers, they would have refused me entry anyway," said Sandoval, a professor and researcher at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), who is currently working on a project on the electoral situation in Central American countries.
He said that what happened "shows that there is clearly a political and repressive police force in Nicaragua, which enlists those who criticise" the regime with the aim of silencing them.
SIP executive predicts "more persecution against journalism" in Nicaragua
Carlos Jornet, chairman of the Press Freedom Committee of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA - SIP), warned that press freedom "has been totally wrecked" in Nicaragua and that this situation "will not be easily reversed" in the short term but that, on the contrary, there will be "more repression, less freedom and more persecution of journalism".
Interviewed on the television programme Esta Noche, Jornet said that the confiscation of the premises of the newspaper La Prensa, carried out by the police on 13 August 2021, "goes against all Inter-American standards on freedom of the press and the principles of freedom of expression", and also "is a clear decision to put an end to any hint of independent journalism".
In Jornet's opinion, the nine-year prison sentence against the general manager of La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, is "totally illegal and shows the desperation of the Ortega-Murillo regime to confront anyone who dares to express dissent".
Fundamedios and Nicaraguan journalists at 15th Ibero-American Colloquium
The exile, persecution, confiscations and imprisonment of journalists by Daniel Ortega's regime in Nicaragua were some of the complaints raised during the 15th Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, within the framework of the International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ 2022), held in Austin, Texas, on 2 and 3 April 2022.
The meeting was attended by Dagmar Thiel, director of Fundamedios, and Nicaraguan journalists Lucía Pineda Ubau, Jennifer Ortiz, Octavio Enríquez and Hans Lawrence, all forced into exile for the simple "crime" of exercising their profession and denouncing the repression unleashed after the social uprising of 2018. In the case of Pineda Ubau, director of the channel 100% Noticias, she was imprisoned for six months between 2018 and 2019 along with the founding owner of the television station, Miguel Mora, who was arrested for the second time in 2021 and still remains in prison.
"You had a newsroom, they confiscated it; you had a sponsor, they imprisoned him; you had an interviewee or a source, they threw him in jail; you had a passport to leave the country, they took it away. Nevertheless, they do journalism", said Dagmar Thiel after highlighting the courage of the journalists. More than 120 Nicaraguan journalists are in exile, according to the union.
Journalist María Lilly Delgado officialises her exile in the USA
During the 15th Ibero-American Colloquium, journalist María Lilly Delgado, former correspondent of the US network UNIVISION in Nicaragua, revealed that she was forced to leave the country several months ago due to threats and pressure from the government.
"Nicaragua has returned to 'catacomb journalism'," she said, comparing the work being done today by the few remaining independent media outlets in the country with the clandestine journalistic work that took place during the last years of the military dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza (1957-1979).
Delgado was one of dozens of journalists summoned by the Public Prosecutor's Office in 2021 as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering brought against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH). As a result of the questioned trial, the former director of the FVBCH, Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, her brother Pedro Joaquín and three other former employees remain in prison and received prison sentences ranging from eight to 13 years.
Gioconda Belli: Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela suffer similar repression
Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli, former president of the PEN Nicaragua centre, which was closed down by the government last February, said that the lack of freedom and the violation of human rights in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela place the governments of the three countries in a similar pattern of behaviour.
Belli, who is in exile in Spain, attended an event on Tuesday 5 April entitled "Latin America and freedom of expression", held in the Aula Magna of the University of Philosophy and Letters in the city of Granada.
The author of "El país bajo mi piel" and "La mujer habitada", among her vast literary works, questioned the harassment of the press, the threats against journalists, the confiscation of media outlets and the excessive persecution of the Chamorro family in the last four years.•
Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, sentenced to 9 years in prison
On the night of 31 March, the general manager of the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, considered a "political prisoner" of Daniel Ortega's government by humanitarian organisations, was sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to pay a financial fine, the country's oldest newspaper reported.
On Wednesday 23 March, at the end of a three-day trial, a judge in Managua found Holmann guilty of alleged money laundering, according to La Prensa and other newspaper reports.
After three hearings behind closed doors in the cells of the Directorate of Judicial Assistance, known as El Chipote, the Ortega justice system found him guilty of the alleged crime of money laundering, property and assets. Judge Nadia Camila Tardencilla Rodríguez, head of the Second Criminal District Court of Managua, also disqualified Holmann from exercising his profession, trade or position for the duration of his sentence.
Holmann was arrested on 14 August 2021, the day after the Ortega regime ordered a raid on the premises of the newspaper La Prensa, which has been occupied by the National Police for more than seven months.
UN Human Rights Council approves resolution to establish a group of experts on Nicaragua
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted during its 49th session and by 20 votes in favour a resolution establishing for one year a "Group of Experts on Human Rights" with a mandate of investigation and accountability for serious human rights violations committed in Nicaragua.
During the session on 31 March, 20 countries abstained, while 7 voted against the resolution presented by a group of countries from the region: Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Canada.
"The 46/2 Collective welcomes the establishment of an investigation and accountability mechanism for Nicaragua. We salute the leadership of the countries of the region that presented this resolution. We also salute the support of Mexico and Argentina," said Natalia Yaya of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
Ortega ratifies party political control over universities
A month after having closed 16 private universities by means of a presidential decree approved in the parliament under his control, the government of Daniel Ortega announced on 29 March 2022 that it is preparing a reform to the Law of University Autonomy, which seeks to strip higher education centres of the autonomy they enjoyed by constitutional right. Profiles, curricula, academic programmes and the entire university administration will be placed under the control of the National Council of Universities (CNU), a structure managed by activists and militants of the governing party.
Article 12 of the reform initiative states that "Higher Education Institutions will submit the profiles and study plans for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees or academic programmes to the CNU for approval". This renders invalid Article 8 of the same law, which granted private universities total autonomy in their functioning.
Ortega's lawyer in The Hague resigns, criticises the regime
For the second time in less than a week, a high-ranking official of Daniel Ortega's government publicly resigned from his post after accusing the Sandinista ruler of having established "a dictatorship" in Nicaragua.
The lawyer is Paul Reichler, the Nicaraguan state's legal representative at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, who has defended the country in territorial disputes with Colombia and Costa Rica in recent decades. Richter also worked closely with Ortega and other Sandinista leaders during the revolution (1979-1990).
"My moral conscience demands that I must cut my ties (...) and refuse to serve you", Reichler told Ortega in a lengthy letter, in which he made harsh criticisms of his way of running the country. "It is inconceivable to me that the Daniel Ortega, whom I proudly served, would have destroyed the democracy he was instrumental in building and established a new dictatorship, not unlike the one he himself helped to overthrow," he said.
Reichler's resignation on 28 March came days after Nicaragua's ambassador to the OAS, journalist Arturo McFields, took the floor during a Permanent Council session to denounce the Ortega regime for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations committed since 2018.
Organisations reject convictions against the press in Nicaragua
A group of 18 Latin American and international journalism and human rights organisations rejected the trials of journalists and media workers in Nicaragua, who have been sentenced to 8 to 13 years in prison, and called on the international community to issue "its most severe condemnation" of these events.
"The undersigned organisations reject the legal farce by which the Nicaraguan justice system has sentenced the former employees of the now defunct Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh), the general manager of La Prensa and independent journalists in Nicaragua to between seven and thirteen years in prison," the groups said.
The signatories include Fundamedios, Article 19, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (Amarc), the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, the Bolivian National Press Association, the Association of Journalists of El Salvador, the Committee for Free Expression, the Centre for Archives and Access to Information, Espacio Público, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, and the Institute for Press and Freedom of Expression.
In addition, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, Demos Institute, PEN International, Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad of Peru, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad of Venezuela, Foro de Periodismo Argentino and Voces del Sur.
Likewise, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurs rejected the conviction of Cristiana Chamorro Barrios and other persons linked to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh). They also condemn the accelerated closure of public space in Nicaragua, including the recent decision to cancel the legal status of 25 civil society organisations.•
Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS publicly denounces Ortega
In an unexpected speech, Nicaragua's ambassador to the Organisation of American States, Arturo McFields, on Wednesday 23 March 2022, denounced his own government as a "dictatorship".
Arturo McFields was appointed by Ortega as the Central American country's representative to the organisation in October 2021. During his participation in a virtual meeting of the Permanent Council, the also journalist said he was speaking to defend "more than 177 political prisoners and more than 350 people who have lost their lives in my country since 2018" and that he was also speaking on behalf of officials forced to "pretend, fill plazas and repeat slogans because if they don't they lose their jobs".
McFields said he is afraid, but "I have to speak out even if my future and that of my family is uncertain (...) Denouncing the dictatorship in my country is not easy, but remaining silent and defending the indefensible is impossible. (...) Since 2018, Nicaragua has become the only country in Central America where there are no printed newspapers, no freedom to publish a simple tweet, a comment on social networks. There are no human rights organisations. There is not a single one. They do not exist. They have all been closed, expelled or shut down. There are no independent political parties, there are no credible elections, there is no separation of powers, there are no de facto powers," McFields said.
Journalists Cristiana and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios convicted
Journalists Cristiana and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, children of former President Violeta Chamorro (1990-1997), were sentenced on Monday 21 March to eight and nine years in prison, respectively, after being charged with money laundering and other crimes.
In the same case, Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes, administrator and accountant of the closed Violeta Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), were sentenced to 13 years in prison, while driver Pedro Vásquez was sentenced to seven years in prison. The three ex-employees of the NGO were also sentenced to fines of more than one million dollars.
Cristiana Chamorro, 68, was considered the favourite to challenge Daniel Ortega in last November's elections, where he was re-elected for a third consecutive term. She was arrested on 2 June 2021, in the middle of the election campaign, as part of a wave of arrests of 46 opponents, including seven presidential hopefuls.
La Prensa newspaper manager goes on trial
On Monday 21 March, the trial began against the general manager of the daily La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, who has been detained since 14 August 2021, one day after Daniel Ortega's government opened an investigation against the newspaper for alleged money laundering.
Since then, the businessman has been held in the cells of El Chipote, in Managua, and the newspaper remains under the control of the Nicaraguan police, as do two other private media outlets.
The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) demanded Holmann's immediate release and warned that he is "seriously ill". His health has deteriorated since his arrest and he has lost 24 pounds. He also has skin fungus and recently showed symptoms associated with COVID-19.
SIP to discuss a "plan of action" against the "Ortega-Murillo dictatorship".
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on 22 March to "close ranks" against "the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship" in Nicaragua because of the recent sentences imposed on journalists and opponents, and announced that it will outline a plan of action with concrete measures to prevent the "subjugation" of freedoms in that country from continuing.
"We are facing one of the fiercest dictatorships in Latin American history," said Jorge Canahuati, president of the Miami-based regional organisation, in a statement. "We must close ranks to prevent the Nicaraguan regime from continuing to restrict citizens' freedoms and destroy the rule of law," he added.
Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, announced that a "plan of action with concrete measures" on the situation in Nicaragua will be discussed at the organisation's next meeting, to be held from 19 to 21 April. •
Cristiana and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios found guilty
Journalists Cristiana and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, children of former president Violeta Barrios and assassinated La Prensa editor Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal (1924-1978), were found guilty of alleged money laundering and other crimes on 11 March 2022, after a seven-day trial that was questioned by human rights organisations.
Cristiana Chamorro, 68, who has been under house arrest since 2 June 2021, was considered the favourite to challenge President Daniel Ortega in last November's elections, in which he was re-elected for a fourth term after jailing six other presidential hopefuls.
In the same trial, three former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), which Cristiana Chamorro headed headed until January 2021, were found guilty. The convictions are expected to be ratified in the coming days, but the prosecution requested prison sentences of up to 13 years for the five defendants.
After hearing the guilty verdict, Cristiana Chamorro responded to the judge: "You are violating my right to freedom of expression (...) and I am obliged to continue defending the legacy left by my father, the Martyr to Public Freedoms Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, and my mother, former president Violeta Barrios".
In addition, the Prosecutor's Office is requesting 13 years in prison for two former FVBCH workers: Walter Gómez, financial administrator of the Foundation, and Marcos Fletes, the organisation's general accountant. Cristiana's driver, Pedro Vásquez, will also be sentenced to seven years in prison in the framework of this trial in which the defence presented more than 1000 pieces of evidence that were not considered.
Voces del Sur condemned the guilty plea and the prison sentence for the ex-directors and ex-workers of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Pedro Vaca, commented on his social networks: "It is frankly disturbing to record that specially protected activities such as the defence of freedom of expression and the training of journalists are criminalised in #Nicaragua Solidarity with all the people of the @FundVioleta".
104 attacks on press freedom reported in February
At least 104 cases of press freedom violations in Nicaragua occurred in Nicaragua during the month of February 2022, of which 85 were perpetrated against media outlets and 19 against individuals, the independent organisation Vocesdel Sur reported.
"State agents continue to lead the list of aggressors, followed by paramilitaries who, according to according to the victims' own testimony, act with total impunity and under the protection of the forces of public order, entities and government officials from all levels of public administration," said a report by the organisation.
Voces del Sur identified media editors and independent reporters as the main victims of the ongoing attacks. Also in February, the organisation documented the exile of at least six Nicaraguan journalists who were forced into exile due to the siege and government persecution against them.
Also, six journalists and communicators remain in prison, as part of the repressive institutional policy that uses the judiciary to punish those who try to exercise their right to freedom of thought.
On 13 March 2022, student Britney Olivas, who ran a community programme on Estéreo Libre radio in the northern department of Jinotega, was murdered by unknown assailants. Olivas, 17, had been reported missing on 11 March by her relatives. Her body was badly beaten, according to local residents. She was a reporter on children's and adolescents' issues for the independent radio station. The authorities are investigating Olivas' partner but have not provided any information about the investigation. •
Bachelet reiterates concern over lack of freedom in Nicaragua
On 7 March 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, reiterated her concern about the violation of fundamental guarantees in Nicaragua and demanded that the government of Daniel Ortega repeal controversial laws restricting freedom of expression and critical thought.
"The construction of a peaceful, tolerant and just society based on respect for human rights continues to be a pending issue for Nicaragua," said the former Chilean president during a debate on the country held during the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Expressing concern about the arbitrary detention of at least 30 journalists and human rights activists, she demanded the release of these detainees and the repeal of three laws passed at the end of 2020: the Special Law on Cybercrimes, the Law on the Regulation of Foreign Agents and Law 1055 on the Defence of the Rights of the People.
These laws "unduly restrict civic and democratic space", said Bachelet, who recommended harmonising criminal and electoral legislation "in line with international and human rights norms and standards".
Sergio Ramírez wins Erasmus of Rotterdam prize
The novelist, essayist, journalist, lawyer and former vice-president of Nicaragua (1984-1990), Sergio Ramírez, wonthe 7th Erasmus of Rotterdam International Humanism in Solidarity Prize for "his work of social and humanist commitment".
According to the jury, the winner's work represents the ethical principles of solidarity, interculturalism, humanity, dignity and human values.
The organisation stresses that, for many years, Ramírez has been denouncing corruption, violence and the brutal exercise of power, as described in his novels, in which the human condition is very much present.
Ramírez, who is currently in exile accused of alleged crimes by the Public Prosecutor's Office controlled by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, which issued an arrest and search warrant against him, expressed his gratitude for the award and said he was "honoured" by the distinction awarded by the Erasmus of Rotterdam Association.
Journalist Patricia Orozco receives award in Spain
The Union of Journalists of Andalusia, Spain, awardedthe 15th Julio Anguita Parrado International Journalism Prize to Patricia Orozco, a Nicaraguan journalist in exile, it was announced on 5 March 2022. Orozco, who has been a journalist for more than 40 years, was the founder of the radio programme Onda Local and the news portal Agenda Propia.
In a unanimous decision, the jury valued "her extensive professional career, in which she has always been committed to courageous and committed journalism, with a gender perspective, in defence of human rights, social justice and equality".
Despite the threats - the jury's minutes state - Patricia Orozco, 65 years old and a former member of the Sandinista Front, has not ceased to carry out her critical and firm work for the values of democracy, both through the radio station Onda Local, an absolute reference in the country, and later through the digital media Agenda Propia Nicaragua.
The award is sponsored by Cordoba City Council, the University of Cordoba, the School of Jewellery - Andalusian Employment Service and the Cordoba Jewellery Park.
IAPA demands the release of journalists in Nicaragua
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) demanded in a statement on 2 March "the immediate release" of three executives of the newspaper La Prensa and two journalists sentenced for their defence of freedom of expression and press freedom in Nicaragua.
The organisation considers Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, Cristiana Chamorro, Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza to be "prisoners of conscience". All of them are imprisoned by the government of Daniel Ortega and for whom it calls for "immediate release".
Both Mora and Mendoza were sentenced last February to 13 and 9 years in prison, respectively, for alleged conspiracy against national integrity.
"We demand due process from Daniel Ortega's government," said the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, and the organisation's president, Jorge Canahuati, in a press release. •
Nicaraguan journalists' day, between persecution and exile
As they do every year, journalists in Nicaragua commemorate their national day on 1 March. But this time they do so in the midst of escalating censorship, harassment and persecution, with more than a hundred journalists in exile and six other well-known journalists and communicators imprisoned by Daniel Ortega's government. They are Miguel Mora, Miguel Mendoza, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, Cristiana Chamorro and television presenter Jaime Arellano, the latter two under house arrest.
Journalist from independent channel NOTIMATV goes into exile
On 28 February 2022, it was reported that journalist María Flordeliz Ordóñez, a contributor to the NOTIMATV channel, an independent digital media outlet in the northern department of Matagalpa, was forced to leave Nicaragua following attacks and assaults by the police and a paramilitary from that city.
Ordóñez said that the persecution began on 11 February, when a Sandinista paramilitary stole her mobile phone and money, and threatened her, telling her that this was only the beginning. A police patrol then raided her home, where they beat her husband and subjected her to interrogation without a warrant.
Eduardo Montenegro, director of NOTIMATV and also forced into exile, said that Ordóñez's departure brings to eight the number of journalists from that news outlet who have been forced to leave the country in the last three months.
16 private universities closed down in Nicaragua
Two more private universities were closed in Nicaragua by a decree approved on 23 February 2022 by the parliament, dominated by the ruling Sandinista Front party. This brings to 16 the number of higher education institutions outlawed since December 2021, as part of the government's campaign to curtail freedom of thought in the country.
The two new entities closed are the Nicaraguan Technological University (UTN), which operated in Managua, and the Santo Tomás de Oriente y Mediodía University USTON-Granada, both registered as associations with the Ministry of the Interior (Mingob).
According to Mingob, both universities failed to comply with their obligation to present their financial statements in accordance with the fiscal periods, an argument applied to most of the higher education institutions whose legal status was cancelled by the legislature in recent weeks.
Well-known professors claim that the Ortega Murillo administration seeks to control in detail the academic structure in Nicaragua, its plans and projects, placing loyal officials and employees at the head of the confiscated universities, in order to avoid another student revolt like the one that shook the country in April 2018, repressed in blood and fire by the police and paramilitaries in the service of the regime. •
Situation in Nicaragua is "dramatic"
The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Pedro Vaca, described the situation of repression in Nicaragua as "dramatic" and expressed "extreme concern" about censorship mechanisms, and about the sentences of a judiciary system "that has no credentials of autonomy and independence".
"The international community and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in particular has expressed concern about guarantees in these trials, about the instrumentalization of criminal law and in the emphatic call for the release of all persons who are being arbitrarily prosecuted," said Vaca in a statement to the Voice of America (VOA).
He pointed out that the Nicaraguan press has changed drastically in this context. "Many journalists are out," he said. He also stressed that another part remains in Nicaragua "taking extremely high risks, continuing to transmit information of great public interest".
Sports journalist Miguel Mendoza sentenced to 9 years in prison
The popular sports reporter Miguel Mendoza was sentenced to nine years of prison and disqualified from holding public office for that period, according to a sentence handed down on 16 February 2022 by a judge in Managua, who found him guilty of "conspiracy to undermine national integrity" and "dissemination of false news".
"The entire criminal prosecution of Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mendoza has been nothing more than a clear attempt by the authorities to silence anyone who dares to question them," said Natalie Southwick, coordinator of the Latin America and Caribbean Programme of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
"Mendoza should never have been arrested, nor should he have spent even a single day in jail. This harsh sentence demonstrates more clearly than ever that Daniel Ortega's government views critical journalists as political opponents who should be repressed," she added.
Miguel Mendoza is the second journalist to be sentenced to prison as part of the trials that the government initiated on 1 February. On 11 February, a local judge handed down a 13-year prison sentence to former director of channel 100% Noticias and presidential hopeful Miguel Mora, also held at the "El Chipote" prison and arrested for the second time since 2018.
Read here the Fundamedios’ report "Daniel Ortega's regime sentenced journalist Miguel Mendoza to 9 years in prison".
Carlos F. Chamorro: "There is a lack of international coordinated action".
The renowned journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro warned that the international community must unite its voice against the Nicaraguan regime, given the escalation of repression and censorship that the country is experiencing, in addition to the imprisonment of opposition leaders who have begun to be convicted in arbitrary political trials, with false witnesses and fabricated crimes.
Pope Francisco and the governments of Mexico and Argentina continue to maintain silence, and avoid condemning the Ortega government's violation of human rights, said Chamorro in an interview with the German television station Deutsche Welle.
"There has been a pronouncement by the EU, but there is a lack of coordinated action by many governments and moral leaders to draw attention to the crisis in Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo are not going to give in if they are not really under extreme pressure," he warned.
"In Nicaragua, the elementary so-called 'Mandela rules' of humanitarian law for prisoners are being violated. Nicaraguans want to end the dictatorship, we want Ortega and Murillo to leave, we want them to submit to justice, we want to have a democratic transition. But first we want to save the political prisoners," said Chamorro, who is in exile and has his siblings Cristiana (house arrest) and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, as well as his cousins Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Lorenzo Holmann, in prison. •
Daniel Ortega clings on to censorship
Journalist Miguel Mora in 2019, when he was honored by the CPJ.
Journalist Miguel Mora found guilty of "conspiracy”
A Nicaraguan judge declared guilty on 4 February 2022 for the crime of "conspiracy" journalist Miguel Mora, one of the seven presidential hopefuls imprisoned in the country for eight months after announcing his intention to dispute the power of President Daniel Ortega, re-elected in November for a fourth consecutive term. The former director of the 100% Noticias channel, occupied and confiscated by the government at the end of 2018, was found guilty of the crime of "conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity" by Judge Nadia Tardencilla, said journalist Lucía Pineda Ubau, who currently runs the television station from her exile in Costa Rica. Mora, who had already been imprisoned in 2018-2019, is the first of the seven imprisoned opposition pre-candidates to be blamed by the Ortega government. He was sent to prison on June 20, as part of a wave of arrests that affected 45 other political leaders, professionals, businessmen, ex-guerrillas and ex-diplomats opposed to the veteran Sandinista leader.
Pineda Ubau indicated that the prosecution requested 15 years in prison for Mora and his disqualification from holding public office, and that during the trial he presented as "witnesses" three policemen, one of whom intervened in the search of the presidential hopeful's home after his arrest on June 20.
Ortega prevents entry to Honduran writer Oscar Estrada
The Nicaraguan government prevented Honduran writer and screenwriter Oscar Estrada from entering the country, according to what the editor and journalist denounced on his social networks on 5 February. "I have just been prevented from entering Nicaragua. For no reason, just because. 'You can't enter,' they told me. I have entered Nicaragua many times and nothing like this has ever happened to me. Unbelievable," Estrada wrote on his Twitter account. Oscar Estrada is founder and editor-in-chief of Casasola LLC. He has participated as a screenwriter in feature films, short films and television series. His topics include politics, migration, organized crime, culture and the relationship between Central America and the United States.
In recent months, Ortega has prevented the entry of numerous writers and journalists to Nicaragua, among them well-known international media correspondents who tried unsuccessfully to cover the November 7 elections, in which the Sandinista ruler was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term, after having imprisoned his main political rivals.
The Nicaraguan government annihilates all critical thinking with the nationalization of university education
Nicaragua's National Assembly (Parliament), controlled by the ruling Sandinista Front party, cancelled the legal status of the country's main private universities and urgently created three state institutions to replace them, reported Confidencial.
Of fundamental concern is the lack of alternatives for critical thinking and the closing of spaces for thousands of young Nicaraguans. The co-optation of educational centres and the establishment of doctrinaire lines of thought in all spaces seriously threatens freedom of expression.
Six are the centers of studies that have been illegalized and whose assets have been confiscated with the express approval of a law for this purpose. They are the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli), the Nicaraguan Popular University (Uponic), the Catholic University of the Dry Tropics (Ucatse), the Nicaraguan University of Humanistic Studies (Uneh) and the Paulo Freire University (UPF). Two months earlier, the Universidad Hispanoamericana (Uhispam) had been cancelled.
The National Council of Universities (CNU), also under government control, occupied its facilities and gave way to the express creation of three new state universities, to which it will transfer the assets confiscated less than a week ago and without due process.•
Legal, criminal and cyber bullying attempts to silence all of Nicaragua
Twitter account of the independent media 100% Noticias was hacked
The Twitter account of the independent media outlet 100% Noticias, with more than 185,000 followers, was hacked on 29 January 2022 by alleged Nicaraguan government activists. Its director, journalist Lucía Pineda Ubau, said the hacker initially identified himself as Elon Musk. The media outlet immediately began recovery of the account and managed to restore it 48 hours later.
100% Noticias has been hit hard by Daniel Ortega's regime. At the end of 2018, the television station's headquarters were raided and confiscated by government forces. Journalist Miguel Mora, then director of the station, and Lucía Pineda Ubau, its press officer, were imprisoned for six months. Mora was recaptured last June and is still in prison for announcing his intention to run for the presidency to challenge Ortega in the disputed elections last November.
For security reasons, some of the staff of 100% Noticias are working in exile in Costa Rica and others are working under cover inside Nicaragua.
Two opposition members convicted under the Cybercrime Law
Between 13 and 27 January 2022 two Nicaraguan citizens, opponents of Daniel Ortega, Douglas Alfredo Cerros Lanzas and Donald Margarito Alvarenga Mendoza, were sentenced to 12 years in prison on the basis of the Special Law on Cybercrime or "Gag Law", Law 1055 or "Sovereignty Law" in Nicaragua.
These laws, passed in late 2020 as part of a package of laws aimed at silencing and punishing voices critical of the government, are beginning to bear devastating fruit for freedom of expression.
The Special Law on Cybercrime and the Law for the Defence of the People's Rights to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace seek to punish the dissemination of alleged "fake news" with imprisonment, as well as to silence dissidents from the criminal justice system and through the progressive and abusive use of state power.
Donald Alvarenga, an opponent from Chichigalpa, was arbitrarily detained on 6 November 2021, one day before Nicaragua's presidential elections. According to the newspaper La Prensa, seven police officers testified against him during the trial. According to the case file, the victim had been subject to spying and surveillance since 2019.
According to the Nicaraguan media Confidencial de Nicaragua, Alvarenga was convicted "for the crime of undermining national integrity (conspiracy) and for the crime of spreading false news through information and communication technologies" on social networks.
Meanwhile, Nicaraguan Douglas Alfredo Cerros Lanzas, 53, was sentenced on 27 January 2022 under the Cybercrimes Act. Cerros, father of Miss World Nicaragua beauty queen Mariela Alexandra Cerros, was arrested by police in the northern town of Ocotal, his home town, on the night of 6 November 2021, on the eve of the disputed elections that led to the re-election of Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.
The trial took place during a hearing lasting more than 10 hours and the main accusation against the detainee was brought by one of the police chiefs in the town of Ocotal. The accuser alleged that Cerros had participated in the 2018 protests and that more recently he had carried out "subversive" activities such as calling on the population not to vote.
On 31 January 2022, the Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor's Office also announced that from 1 February trials would begin against "criminals and delinquents who have attacked the rights of the Nicaraguan people and society", violating the presumption of innocence of the detainees from the outset.
The first two convictions of Cerros and Alvarenga, followed by the government's announcement, give a foreshadow of what the 170 prisoners of conscience arbitrarily detained in Nicaragua will be exposed to. Among them are several journalists and media workers.
Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vice President of PEN International.
Legal harassment, aggressions and self-censorship in Latin American journalism
First opponent convicted under the Cybercrime Law
Opposition leader Donald Margarito Alvarenga Mendoza, 56, became the first Nicaraguan to be convicted under the “Special Cybercrime Law”. After a 15-hour trial on 13 January 2022, the judge of the Criminal Trial District of Chinandega, Rosa Velia Baca Cardoza, found him guilty of "subversion, disobedience and rebellion at the level of conspiracy to affect national integrity". The sentence read on 18 January sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison.
Alvarenga was arrested on 6 November, on the eve of the disputed presidential elections. As evidence to incriminate him, the prosecution presented a cell phone owned by the accused, in which they allegedly found Whatsapp messages with "false news" and/or "subversive" content. All the "witnesses" in the process were police officers and Alvarenga was not allowed to have a private interview with his lawyer.
The COVID-19 pandemic made journalistic work in Latin America precarious
On Tuesday, 25 January 2022, the Network of Defenders of Freedom of Expression in Latin America (Red LEAL) presented the 'Red Leal Freedom of Expression Situation Report'. The Network is a community of solidarity, support and protection that monitors and makes visible the attacks on freedom of expression against communicators working in various Latin American countries, especially with local and community media and civil society organizations serving traditionally excluded communities, in order to protect those who exercise freedom of expression.
The forum was moderated by Alexis Serrano Carmona, journalist and editor of the portal Ecuador Chequea and included the participation of the panellists Lourdes Ramírez, director of the Digital Newspaper en Alta Voz, Zoila Antonio Benito, journalist specialized in gender, founder and director of La Antígona and Mariela Castañón, journalist, university professor and founder of the media Nuestras Historias Guatemala.
During the discussion, aggressions, self-censorship, criminalization and lack of access to information were reported, and they talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic has made journalistic work precarious, which has resulted in layoffs, lower salaries and a decrease in news segments. The main aggressions reported are related to access to information, physical aggressions and restrictions to internet access. The State is configured as the main aggressor.
The report also reveals the inter-institutional shortcomings and obstacles that exist in Latin America with respect to the mechanisms for the protection of journalists, many of which do not have clear regulations or lack the political will to implement them. •
The situation of freedom of expression in Nicaragua is a matter of serious concern
19 January 2022
Voces del Sur: 2021 was a dismal year for the independent press in Nicaragua
On 13 January, the organisation Voces del Sur presented its report titled "Situation of press freedom in Nicaragua in 2021", which recorded a high number of cases of harassment and attacks against journalists and the media over the past 12 months in Nicaragua.
Harassment against independent journalists has intensified in Nicaragua, as well as fear, due to the increased persecution of freedom of expression, immigration, and the detention of journalists and activists.
According to the report, in this year shaped by elections the main opposition candidates were imprisoned, and there were 702 attacks against independent journalism, almost the double of the number reported in 2020.
At least 120 Nicaraguan journalists have gone into exile since 2018
Since April 2018, when demonstrations against the government led by Daniel Ortega erupted, at least 120 Nicaraguan journalists have gone into exile, according to a report released on Wednesday 12 January 2022 by the Nicaragua Nunca Más Human Rights Collective.
"To date, there are more than 120 Nicaraguan journalists seeking refuge in Costa Rica, the United States, Spain and other destinations. The number continues to rise", highlighted the organisation formed in Costa Rica by human rights defenders who are also in exile.
According to Nunca Más Human Rights Collective, the authorities have also sized the editorial offices of the television channel 100 % Noticias, the digital newspaper Confidencial and the daily La Prensa, the oldest newspaper in Nicaragua, which now circulates via the internet.
Chinese press reportedly enjoying more rights than Nicaraguan journalists
Journalists and organisations defending freedom of expression in Nicaragua denounced on 11 January that Daniel Ortega's government has a plan to reduce the independent press to a minimum, and give greater support to the Chinese, Iranian and Russian press.
Ahead of Ortega's recent inauguration for his fourth consecutive term in office, and following the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Sandinista government and China, the China Media Group (CMG) opened a correspondent's office in Managua to train Nicaraguan journalists from the pro-government media.
"This is what Venezuela, the Cuban regime, and Putin's regime have done, training pro-government journalists who are in their service," said David Quintana, a Nicaraguan exiled reporter. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
Nicaragua closed 2021 with the worst humanitarian crisis worldwide
11 January 2022
PEN International and Voces del Sur condemn journalistic repression in Nicaragua
On 10 January 2022, PEN International, IFEX-ALC, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights and Voces del Sur issued a statement condemning the numerous attempts by the Nicaraguan authorities to threaten and silence the country's independent press. The organisations call for the immediate release of the detained journalists.
Furthermore, the approval and application of a series of punitive laws, widely questioned by international human rights bodies, have allowed journalists Miguel Mendoza, Jaime Arellano, Cristiana Chamorro, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, Miguel Mora and former officials of the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation, Walter Gómez, Marcos Fletes and Pedro Vásquez to continue to be arbitrarily deprived of their freedom.
"Nicaragua: the bad example for Central America and the region": Fundamedios
The Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study (Fundamedios) published its annual report 2021, "The quality of freedom of expression regressed in the region", in which it addresses the problems in countries such as Nicaragua, the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and recognises that the quality of freedom of expression in the Americas has regressed, with impunity being a constant in the region.
In the chapter dedicated to the situation in Nicaragua, in which it recounts the events of the period, it summarises: "The Central American country ended the year with the worst humanitarian crisis and the worst daily record of human rights violations, with more than 160 political prisoners imprisoned. Among them are journalists, media workers, commentators and people who expressed their opinions. But, in addition, harassment has led to the self-censorship of many independent journalists and the exile of at least 45 journalists this year. The state has been the main victimizer."
The WhatsApp line, with which the Confidencial team connected with the population to send information and receive complaints from its readers, was hacked on Tuesday 4 January 2022, and although the account was blocked, the following day it was usurped again.
The hacker gained access to the WhatsApp verification SMS, set up new codes, changed the account from Business to Messenger and modified the biography, which now reads, "Number stolen by the most powerful in Nicaragua. Sincerely yours: I am Immortal".
The team stopped sharing information via Messenger and verified that the hijacker of the messaging app did not have access to subscribers' information, but subscribers have reportedly received messages with sexual content and the hacker calls himself a "supporter of the Sandinista regime". A similar problem has also been reported with the WhatsApp accounts of Bacanalnica.com, Artículo 66 and Canal 10.
In 2021, Nicaraguan journalism experienced a "fierce attack".
The Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Nunca Más revealed in its annual report, published on 30 December, that during 2021 journalism in Nicaragua experienced a "ferocious attack" with seven types of repression against the physical and psychological integrity of journalists and nine types of repression that criminalise and prosecute them. The organisation also recorded illegal arrests, trials, physical attacks, property damage, tax prosecution, forced displacement, intensive interrogations, violations of freedom of movement and circulation, and smear campaigns against journalists.
In 2021, six journalists faced trials and, according to the NGO, in the case against Cristiana Chamorro - who was arrested after announcing her interest in running for the presidency - 57 of the 158 people interviewed were journalists, several of whom were arrested.
One hundred journalists under surveillance in Nicaragua
On 20 December, a prosecutor, who remains anonymous, confidentially revealed to one of the journalists summoned by the Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor's Office between May and June 2021, that there is a list of just over 100 journalists with open files for various offences under the Special Law on Cybercrime, the Law on Foreign Agents and the Law on Treason, among others.
"The recommendation given by the prosecutor to my lawyer is that if I, or any journalist who was summoned or questioned in the case against Cristiana Chamorro and the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), wants to travel, they should leave illegally and not take any risks at the immigration posts, because they could end up without a passport and even be arrested", said the journalist, who wanted to know his legal situation before attempting to leave the country to receive medical treatment. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Lucina Kathmann
In three years, crimes against press freedom have increased "with extreme intensity"
14 December 2021
Increase in attacks on independent press reported
A total of 128 new attacks on journalists and independent media outlets by Daniel Ortega's government took place between August and November in Nicaragua, according to the quarterly monitoring report on Violations of Press Freedom prepared by the newspaper La Prensa.
"A total of 20 alerts were issued in November and two alerts generated in August 2021 were followed up. A total of 128 cases of press freedom violations were documented; 99 were perpetrated against media outlets (77.3 %) and 29 against individuals, which corresponds to 22.7 %," said the report released on 13 December 2021.
He warned that the practice of journalism is becoming more dangerous every day in Nicaragua, as those who dare to inform suffer siege, threats and harassment by activists and government fanatics.
"It is necessary to point out that the practice of journalism in Nicaragua is being carried out in increasingly adverse conditions and hostile environments. During November we were able to verify that five journalists were victims of aggression on more than two occasions," the report added.
Crimes of extreme intensity against the press
In an article published in various Central American media in the first week of December 2021, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro said that in just three and a half years in Nicaragua, all crimes against press freedom have been concentrated "with extreme intensity".
"Since the social outburst of April 2018, when the Ortega Murillo family dictatorship lost the political majority in the streets, the regime became a bloody dictatorship and repressed with equal virulence citizens and journalists, civil society organisations and the media, which became the 'enemy' to be crushed," Chamorro said.
In the list of aggressions against the independent press, he mentioned the paramilitary assault that destroyed the facilities of Radio Darío, in León, on 20 April 2018; the murder of journalist Ángel Gahona, in Bluefields, on 21 April 2018, which remains in impunity; the physical aggressions, assaults, threats, espionage and intimidation against reporters, by police and paramilitaries.
He also cited the forced exile of more than 120 journalists, the customs blockade against newspapers and censorship on broadcast television and the cable system, as well as the police occupation of the newspaper La Prensa and the editorial offices of the channel 100% Noticias and Confidencial, the latter on two occasions.
Six well-known journalists, reporters and communicators are currently in prison.
IACHR grants precautionary measures to journalist María Lilly Delgado
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures on 9 December in favour of Nicaraguan journalist María Lilly Delgado, former Univisión correspondent in Managua, and demanded that Daniel Ortega's government guarantee "the life and integrity" of the reporter.
The IACHR issued the resolution several months after Delgado was summoned to testify before the Public Prosecutor's Office in the case of alleged money laundering of which the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation is accused.
The text urges the Nicaraguan state to "ensure that its agents respect the life and personal integrity of the beneficiary", as well as to adopt the necessary measures so that the communicator can carry out her activities "without being subjected to acts of violence, intimidation, threats or harassment in the exercise of her work". •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
Independent journalist's home "marked" with threats
23 November 2021
On 18 November 2021, the home of journalist Elba Ileana Molina, a correspondent for Canal 10 in the city of Jinotepe, south of Managua, was marked with threatening slogans by alleged government activists who two weeks earlier had begun to monitor her movements.
Molina reported on her Facebook account that her persecutors had marked the walls of her home with intimidating slogans such as "PLOMO" (an acronym for the Sandinista slogan "Free Homeland or Die, but also meaning "bullets"), "You are under surveillance" and "We will surprise you". Photographs of the house accompanied her public denunciation.
Her colleague Wilith Narváez, a well-known Channel 10 news anchor, said that over the past three years he has become accustomed to siege, surveillance and threats from government sympathisers and police officers. The aim is to force them to give up their profession or leave the country, say leaders of the profession.
"Journalists in the territories, in the municipalities, even their homes and vehicles have been plastered with slogans to intimidate, to generate fear, to try to promote self-censorship," Cristopher Mendoza, a journalist with the Onda Local portal who recently went into exile, told to Voz de América in interview.
La Prensa newspaper completes 100 days under police occupation
November 21 marked the 100th day of the assault, police occupation and de facto confiscation of the facilities of the newspaper La Prensa, founded 96 years ago and since then a symbol of freedom of information in Nicaragua.
On 13 August this year, riot police forces stormed into the headquarters of La Prensa, whose directors had denounced days earlier the blocking of paper and supplies by the Customs authorities, in a new attempt at censorship by Daniel Ortega's government.
As part of their illegal and arbitrary action, the police arrested the journalist and general manager of La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, who has since been held in the cells of El Chipote prison, along with 38 other opponents arrested in the context of the recent electoral process that led to Ortega's third consecutive re-election. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Lucina Kathmann
Penalties on Nicaragua over repression
16 November 2021
On Monday 15 November 2021, the US Treasury Department announced the imposition of penalties on the Nicaraguan Public Ministry, as well as nine high-ranking Nicaraguan officials, for their role in the "repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms" and as a consequence of the presidential elections of 7 November, which they described as a "farce". The new measures involve the blocking of all property and possible assets of these individuals in the US. Canada followed in the US's footsteps by announcing sanctions against a dozen senior officials linked to human rights violations. "Canada welcomes the decisive actions taken by its international partners, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and will continue to work with them to build support and pressure the regime," the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement.
On the same day, the UK announced sanctions against eight senior Nicaraguan government officials, including Rosario Murillo, Vice President of the Republic. "The election was strongly criticised by the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, Canada and other countries, due to arbitrary arrests and detentions of political opponents, repression of independent media, and the forced dissolution of opposition parties. These sanctions impose travel bans and asset freezes on those particularly responsible for undermining democratic principles and Nicaraguan institutions, committing severe human rights violations and promoting repression against civil society," reads the official statement.
Canal 21 and Radio Nexus affected after elections
The government of Daniel Ortega cancelled the operating licence of Enlace Canal 21 and Radio Nexus, 89.5 FM, owned by Reverend Guillermo Osorno, former presidential candidate for the Nicaraguan Christian Way party (CCN), a day after the evangelical leader questioned the 7 November election results and called on the government to hold new elections. Enlace Canal 21 had been operating in the country since 1991, along with Radio Nexus, and was the only television channel of the various denominations of Evangelical churches. Following the announcement of the cancellation of the license, police patrols held a siege outside the station's building.
At least 70 Nicaraguan journalists in exile
Since the social uprising that shook the country in April 2018, at least 70 Nicaraguan journalists have gone into exile, according to a report released by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who has gone into exile twice in the past three years. "More than 70 journalists since 2018 and continuing in this new wave, since 2021, of arrests of opposition leaders and independent professionals, in 2021, have had to go into exile to be able to continue doing journalism from Costa Rica, the United States and Spain," pointed out Chamorro, director of the daily Confidencial and the television programmes Esta Semana and Esta Noche. "Despite the suppression of press freedom and freedom of expression, journalism and truthful reporting continues, although journalists now can cite no sources, because hardly anyone or no one can attribute the information they provide or their opinions, and we have to cover their identities for fear of reprisals," he explained.•
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Lucina Kathmann
Siege, raids and arrests in the context of the Nicaraguan elections
9 November 2021
At least 45 violations of press freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of movement were recorded during the general elections on 7 November, in which, as expected and according to a preliminary official count, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were elected to govern the country for a further five years from 10 January 2022.
The victims of the attacks were, once again, men and women journalists who were carrying out their work and fulfilling their right to receive and transmit information to society.
Two journalists arrested during election coverage
Journalists Mileydi Trujillo and Elvin Daniel Martínez, of the digital media Masaya al Día, were detained by police officers while covering voting day in the city of Masaya, near Managua, on 7 November.
The journalists were taken to the local police station where they were interrogated and held for two hours. Martínez said that police officers forced him to wear a blue uniform (prisoner's uniform) and took photographs of him.
Paramilitaries besieged journalists in front of juntas
Journalists from various media outlets and human rights activists denounced that the government used police officers and paramilitary elements to intimidate freelance editors and photographers who attempted to approach the polling stations on 7 November.
The government claimed that along with its 232 "electoral companions" (mostly supporters of the Frente Sandinista sent to control the election results) it accredited 600 local and foreign journalists. However, correspondents from the main European and US news agencies, television stations and media, such as Le Monde, CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times, were prevented from entering the country.
IAPA called for guarantees for election coverage
Prior to the elections, on 6 November the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) had called on the Nicaraguan government to provide guarantees for press coverage of election day.
In a statement, the IAPA warned that repression in Nicaragua represents a threat to journalistic activity, given the refusal to allow several representatives of the international press to enter the country.
"We are obliged to hold the Nicaraguan authorities responsible for any incident that may occur to the detriment of journalists and the national and international media during the electoral process," said the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, in the same statement.
Raid on headquarters of polling company
The offices of the Central American consulting firm Mercaplan in Nicaragua were raided on the night of 6 November by police, who arrested several of its employees and confiscated computers, notebooks and mobile phones.
Mercaplan is a consulting firm working in Central America and the Caribbean, and was contracted to carry out a field study on the pre-electoral political climate in different areas of Nicaragua. According to the company's directors, the homes of its employees were also raided and they were threatened with the closing of the company. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
Days before Nicaragua's elections, repression intensifies
2 November 2021
Only a few days to go before the 7 November elections, in which President Daniel Ortega will seek re-election after having imprisoned his main political rivals, the Nicaraguan government continues to violate the right to free expression and information through by forbidding journalists to leave the country and prohibiting entry of correspondents and envoys from various international media outlets.
Journalist Kalua Salazar, once again under police siege
Journalist Kalua Salazar, director of Radio La Costeñísima in the city of Bluefields (Surcaribe), reported that on the night of 28 October 2021 armed police officers came to her house and took photographs of the security cameras installed outside.
"What are you looking for in my house, what have you lost? Leave my family in peace," she wrote on her Facebook account and posted photographs of uniformed officers sieging and intimidating her. Salazar said that she and her family are also under "permanent surveillance by plainclothes police" outside her home.
Ortega bans entry of Honduran newspaper journalist
On 26 October, a team of the Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, directed by journalist Carlos Pineda, was about to enter Nicaragua to cover the 7 of November elections, and was detained at the border by Nicaraguan immigration authorities.
"One really feels upset, to a certain extent offended because they are obstructing freedom of expression, and the right that journalists have to inform the population, to tell what is happening", denounced Pineda.
He said that he intended to enter Nicaragua together with a photographer and a driver, with the idea of "focusing on the issues of freedom of expression -given that in Nicaragua there is no printed newspaper after the closure of the daily La Prensa and the Hoy - and on the elections, especially on the issue of political imprisonment of opponents and presidential hopefuls over the last five months.
Sergio Ramírez receives award from Madrid's Círculo de las Letras (Circle of Letters)
Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, winner of the 2017 Cervantes Prize for Literature, received the Gold Medal of the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid on 25 October, in a ceremony in which he denounced the abuses of freedom of expression and thought by Daniel Ortega's government.
"I have been condemned for my words, for the fact of writing, for showing the reality of a country subjected to the violence of tyranny," said the prize-winning novelist. For being persecuted by the regime, he chose to settle in Spain, where the government granted him citizenship three years ago.
"Twice under prison orders and twice forced into exile, first, in my youth by a family dictatorship and so many years later by another family dictatorship. History always biting its own tail in a country that is too beautiful and too tragic," he said. However, he added, "they will not be able to exile me from my own language".
PEN Protest / Day of the Dead 2021
This week, as part of the Day of the Dead and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, PEN International is holding its PEN Protest campaign with PEN Centres across the Americas to remember journalists killed for reporting, and to call on Latin American governments to end impunity and attacks against journalists in the countries of the region, allowing the free exercise of reporting, dissent and opinion.
Nicaraguan journalists in exile join the campaign and, a few days before the presidential elections in Nicaragua shared the video "Exile. Death of freedom of expression". •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
The machinery of silence two weeks before Nicaragua's elections
26 October 2021
Premio Gabo 2021 to Nicaraguan cartoonist Pedro X. Molina
Cartoonist and illustrator Pedro X. Molina was awarded the Premio Gabo 2021 by the Governing Council of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation, which considered him "one of the most persistent and incisive commentators on contemporary processes of corruption, the advance of authoritarianism, the retreat of civil liberties and human rights abuses". The award, which was announced on 21 October, notes that the work of Molina, a cartoonist for the publication Confidencial, "stands out for its visual delicacy, for its profound reflection on events in Nicaragua, Central America and elsewhere, and at the same time for its hilarious irreverence".
Le Monde journalist banned from entering the country
On 20 October it was announced that the Nicaraguan authorities refused entry to the country to journalist Frédéric Saliba, Mexico correspondent for the French daily Le Monde, just two weeks before the November 7th elections, in which President Daniel Ortega is seeking his third re-election and fourth consecutive term in office. Saliba, who was scheduled to fly to Managua on 18 October, was notified a day earlier that his ticket had been cancelled by the airline, citing a decision by the Nicaraguan authorities for alleged "migratory reasons", according to Le Monde.
Popular influencer who parodied Rosario Murillo goes into exile
The young comedian Denis Castellón, known on social networks by the alias "Locuín", reported that he was forced to go into exile after learning that he was facing threats of imprisonment by the government. Castellón said he left Nicaragua three months ago, as his name was on a list of people to be detained in the near future. "Locuín" is known for his viral videos in which he imitates and ridicules Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo.
IAPA condemns brutal harassment of reporters and media in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela
On 22 October, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) approved resolutions at its 77th General Assembly on Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, condemning "police and judicial persecution" and the "imprisonment" of reporters, as well as "unconscionable attacks" on press freedom and freedom of expression in these countries. In the case of Nicaragua, the IAPA General Assembly resolved to condemn the government of Daniel Ortega for its "unconscionable attacks on Nicaraguan civil society" and press freedom, while demanding the immediate return of the premises of the newspaper La Prensa, the oldest in the country, "unjustly seized and ransacked by the police", as well as the release of Juan Lorenzo Holmann, general manager of the newspaper. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Lucina Kathmann
Nicaragua suffers from "censorship cocktail"
19 October 2021
Juan Lorenzo Holmann's health deteriorates
After 64 days in El Chipote prison, the general manager of the daily La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, has serious eye problems and the authorities have so far failed to provide him with necessary medical attention, according to his wife, Chrystal Munguía.
Munguía, who visited her husband for the second time on 13 October, said that Holmann has suffered fainting spells and for some weeks now has had a dark spot in his right eye. She added that before being imprisoned, the journalist had undergone cataract surgery and suffered retinal detachment, a situation that has been aggravated by his confinement in total darkness and very unhygienic conditions.
Reporters Without Borders on the Nicaraguan press
The Latin American director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Emmanuel Colombié, declared that a "cocktail of censorship" had been set up in Nicaragua against the independent media, and urged the international community to provide greater exposure to the situation.
"We observe in Nicaragua a cocktail of censorship organised by the government, by the presidency itself, and to continue reporting in this toxic environment is extremely difficult," Colombié told the Spanish news agency Efe during a three-day visit to Costa Rica, where he met with Nicaraguan journalists in exile.
He commented that Nicaragua has become "a minefield" for the practice of journalism, especially since the political crisis that began in 2018. This situation has worsened in the context of the electoral process leading up to the elections on 7 November, in which Daniel Ortega will seek his third consecutive term as president.
A country where people are afraid to speak out
According to the most recent survey by the Chilean consultancy Latinobarómetro, Nicaraguans are the Latin Americans who are most afraid to publicly express what they think.
Among the citizens of 18 Latin American countries, Nicaraguans are the least willing to express their opinions in public, even in the privacy of their families. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents said they do not usually express their opinions publicly about the country's problems.
Sixty-three per cent of those surveyed by Latinobarómetro considered that expressing their views on the country's problems could have "negative consequences". This self-censorship is much more prevalent than in other authoritarian countries such as Venezuela (45%), and exceeds the silence of Ecuadorians (62%), Brazilians (61%), Hondurans (61%) and Guatemalans (57%), according to the same survey.
More than 100 new attacks on press freedom reported
The newspaper La Prensa, which has been occupied by the police since mid-August, reported 104 cases of freedom of press violations in September, affecting journalists and independent media outlets.
The total number of documented cases includes 15 victims (12 individuals and 3 media outlets). For the ninth consecutive month, maintaining the trend since the socio-political crisis began in April 2018, in most cases (93.3%) the aggressors are state agents.
According to the monitoring and follow-up of La Prensa, so far in 2021 there have been 362 cases of violations of press freedom, a figure equivalent to 1.32 attacks per day. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
One month before the presidential elections in Nicaragua
5 October 2021
One month before the election in which President Daniel Ortega will seek his third consecutive re-election, after having sent rivals and opposition leaders to prison, the situation of public freedoms remains critical in Nicaragua. At least 155 people remain imprisoned for political reasons, including six journalists and communicators who were detained in the last four months.
As part of its strategy of social control and repression, the government continues to apply migratory restrictions on people linked to the opposition, relatives of political prisoners, and independent journalists, whose passports were confiscated, preventing them from leaving the country.
Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro (left) y Henry Constantín Ferreiro (right)
Press Freedom Award 2021 to Juan Lorenzo Holmann
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) awarded on 1 October the Grand Prize for Press Freedom 2021 to journalist Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, general manager of the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa, who has been imprisoned by Daniel Ortega's government since 14 August.
The same award was given to Cuban journalist Henry Constantín Ferreiro, editor of the magazine La Hora de Cuba, who was imprisoned and held incommunicado for 10 days after being arrested on 11 July.
Both "represent the courage and struggle of independent journalism to keep the population informed, despite the strong reprisals adopted by the totalitarian regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba against critical voices and press freedom," IAPA President Jorge Canahuati said as he announced the winners.
The IAPA reiterated its rejection of the closure of newspaper La Prensa, which was raided on the same day as Hollman Chamorro's arrest, and which remains occupied by the National Police until today.
Journalist Mauricio Madrigal prevented from leaving the country
Journalist Mauricio Madrigal, head of press for the Acción 10 news program on Canal 10 (independent television), was detained by immigration officials at Managua's Sandino international airport on September 29, when he was about to leave on a business trip to the United States.
Madrigal denounced that the agents prevented him from leaving the country and stripped him of his passport, without offering any explanation. "They withheld my passport. They told me that I could not leave the country without any explanation. The passport was kept by the guards," Madrigal said.
The journalist had been summoned on June 29 by the prosecutor's office. The authorities asked him to report on the news programunder that he directs. In a veiled threat, they "reminded" him that the Special Law on Cybercrime allows those who spread "false information" to be prosecuted.
"It is an arbitrary measure because I have no open legal proceedings," protested Madrigal, whose news program is critical of Daniel Ortega's government. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
Public Forum exposes corruption and repression in Nicaragua
28 September 2021
On Wednesday 21 September, Fundamedios and PADF held the Public Forum "Accountability Mechanisms: Nicaragua’s Case", to discuss the situation in Nicaragua since 2018, with the brutal repression of protests, arbitrary detentions and, during this election year, the total suppression of the exercise of democracy with the intimidation, persecution and imprisonment of anyone critical of the Government.
The Forum was attended by Elvira Cuadra, a Nicaraguan sociologist; Enrique Sáenz, a former member of the National Assembly; Ramón Muñoz, director of the Geneva International Human Rights Network; and it was moderated by Dagmar Thiel, CEO of Fundamedios USA.
Elvira Cuadra pointed out the importance of having a medium-term retrospective view on the situation in Nicaragua. She argued that despite the lack of transparency that prevails in the country, there have been various efforts to develop mechanisms to fight corruption, which have been diluted over time. Enrique Sáenz pointed out that accountability is not only an ethical issue, but it also includes the visibility of people's living conditions.
Ramon Muñoz explained that, from an international point of view, there are different efforts to influence accountability, considering that Nicaragua ratified all international human rights treaties, and it is also part part of the Human Rights Council, and subject to different examinations by the United Nations system. Unfortunately, the Nicaraguan government has expelled international human rights bodies, and has refused to answer letters and communications that the various rapporteurships have issued on the electoral situation, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Dagmar Thiel asked Elvira Cuadra how she has seen the international actions and what have been their shortcomings. She pointed out contemporary democracy has been able to obtain international help, rejecting violations, and taking provisions and resolutions that some governments have imposed.
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
Report shows persecution of dissident voices in Nicaragua
21 September 2021
UN Special Rapporteurs Reject Process Against FVBCH
On 18 September it was announced that eight special rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council sent a comprehensive report to the government of Daniel Ortega, in which they rejected as "illegal and arbitrary" the judicial process against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH) and journalists Carlos Fernando and Cristiana Chamorro, who is under house arrest since 2 June.
The report also demands that the Nicaraguan government provides information on the legal grounds of the police operation carried out in 2018 at the offices of newspaper Confidencial, and this year at the headquarters of the FVBCH and the studios of the programmes Esta Noche and Esta Semana. In addition, it demands an explanation of the harassment of the independent press and human rights defenders.
The situation of siege to press freedom was also denounced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who spoke at the 47th session of the Human Rights Council and commended Ortega to take "urgent measures" and to "at least, immediately release all arbitrarily detained persons, cease all persecution against dissident voices and restore the rights and freedoms that make an electoral process possible".
La Prensa lays off staff to "ensure its survival"
The daily La Prensa, which has been occupied by Nicaraguan police since 13 August, announced on 16 September a cutback in staff and its digital publications as an extreme measure to ensure its own survival.
In a statement, the newspaper said that it was forced "to take the painful decision to operate only enough to continue reporting from our website and to guarantee the survival of the company in the midst of a hostile environment imposed on us by the dictatorship".
"The seizure by the police of our facilities, where our press, commercial printing press, administrative offices and newsroom are located, forces the company to make a cutback as we are unable to operate normally," added the report, which did not reveal how many journalists will be laid off. It stressed that its website www.laprensa.com.ni will be the only site where daily news will be published after closing its social media accounts.•
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
International outrage for the accusations against Sergio Ramírez
14 September 2021
International condemnation was sparked by the judicial accusation and arrest warrant issued by the government of Daniel Ortega against writer Sergio Ramírez, winner of the 2017 Cervantes Prize, accused by the Public Prosecutor's Office of "inciting hatred" on 8 September 2021.
Hundreds of novelists, poets and journalists have spoken out in solidarity with the laureate author of Castigo Divino and holder of a literary career spanning more than half a century, who now faces "forced exile" from his native Nicaragua.
Ramírez, who will be 80 years old next August, told the television program Esta Semana and the website Confidencial that the real reason for the unusual accusation lies in his most recent novel, Tongolele no sabía bailar, in which he recreates episodes of government repression that took place in 2018, when at least 328 civilians were killed for participating in protests. "They are not going to silence me, I will continue to denounce," said Ramírez, after pointing out that the government has withheld a batch of these books at customs to prevent the work from being read in Nicaragua.
The novel will be presented on 16 September in Madrid, where Ramírez is based. This week he coincided with Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, who has publicly backed him. "Many years ago I decided to stop signing collective letters (but) if there is a letter supporting you, your work, your figure, your personality, I will sign it, and I have already signed it", Padura told him.
Read PEN International's statement on Sergio Ramírez here.
Human Rights Report: "The worst context to practice journalism"
The Human Rights Collective "Nicaragua Nunca +", a human rights organization based in Costa Rica, denounced that at least 100 Nicaraguan journalists have been forced into exile in Costa Rica, the United States and Spain, a quarter of them in 2021, due to Ortega’s government sustained "persecution, harassment and prosecution" by.
"In Nicaragua we are facing the worst possible context for journalism," the group said in a report presented on the occasion of International Journalists' Day, in which it stated that the independent press is "under fierce attack" by the government.
The NGO stressed that in the last three months it has documented acts of "disqualification, persecution, harassment, criminalization and prosecution" of journalists, aimed at silencing them. Such actions coincided with the arrests of 36 opponents that started last May, in the context of the electoral process that will conclude on 7 November.
Tweets and interviews used as "evidence" against journalists
In the hearings held on September 7 against imprisoned journalists Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza, the Nicaraguan Attorney General's Office presented messages posted on Twitter by both journalists as evidence of alleged crimes.
The defense of Miguel Mora, whom the government imprisoned for the first time in 2018-2019, denounced that the Public Prosecutor's Office used a video interview filmed three years ago and "taken out of context" to justify the government's accusation.
In the case of sports reporter Miguel Mendoza, his lawyer revealed that the prosecutor tried to prove the crime of "conspiracy", offering as alleged evidence 10 tweets and a Facebook post, in which the reporter warned that Daniel Ortega could be sanctioned with the RENACER Act in the United States.
Mora and Mendoza are among the six communicators who the government intends to convict using the Cybercrime Law and other provisions passed in late 2020. The other defendants are Cristiana Chamorro (under house arrest), her brothers Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (imprisoned) and Carlos Fernando Chamorro (exiled) and political commentator Jaime Arellano.•
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
Journalists under “total siege"
7 September 2021
Eduardo Enríquez, editor in chief of La Prensa, whose offices have remained occupied by the police since last month, said that independent journalism in Nicaragua is “totally besieged” by various state organisms that the government of Daniel Ortega uses to exercise repression.
“The dictatorship from the beginning has been hostile toward independent journalism, just as during the 80s, when it first started, and just as it has been since 2007, but the situation now is worse,” said Enríquez in an interview with El País of Colombia, in which he emphasized that many journalists have left the country because of the possibility of being disappeared or kidnapped.
“Independent journalism is totally besieged. These court hearings that they call, in one of which I was called to testify in June, are intimidating... Many journalists, who have been called to court in conjunction with this same lawsuit against the Chamorro Foundation, have chosen to leave the country. The independent journalists who are active know that their situation is dangerous and there is no institution which can protect them, because there is no independence in the courts nor in the prosecutor's office. There are no human rights organizations. There is an Attorney General's office but it is just as tied to the dictatorship,” he affirmed.
Persecution of the press affects the preparation of new journalists
The censorship and harassment of journalists start to affect the academic level too, because many young people express fear about studying Social Communication (journalism), a field which had been booming before 2018. “There was a decrease in terms of quantity. In the universities there were about 200 journalism students, but now it is considered something dangerous,” declared Salomón Manzanares, a professor of Social Communication in the city of León, in the western part of Nicaragua.
He noted that various universities have withdrawn their Social Communication studies department from the academic offerings because of the small demand by students. Family pressures have influenced this decision, because many parents don't want their children to get “mixed up in politics,” the teacher added in an interview with the radio station Voice of America on September 3.
Nicaragua is worse than Cuba and Venezuela: Fundamedios
“It seems that the government of Nicaragua has exceeded those of Cuba and Venezuela, in terms of cruelty and repression of the independent press,” said the director of Fundamedios for the United States, Dagmar Thiel, participating in “Latin American press besieged. Freedom for detained journalists” on 31 August 2021. This event was organized by Fundamedios in the National Press Club with the support of PEN International, PEN America and other groups which defend freedom of expression. Thiel denounced the recent arbitrary arrest of five journalists from La Prensa of Nicaragua and called for unity among communicators from all over the world to demand their liberation. “Journalism is not a crime; we have to be in solidarity with them,” she said.
“There is a general deterioration of public space and of the environment to exercise the right to freedom of expression and in particular of the guarantees necessary for doing journalism,” declared Pedro Vaca Villarreal, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH), comparing the situation of journalists in Nicaragua with what their colleagues in Cuba and Venezuela suffer.
Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vice-president of PEN International
Journalists and critical voices are facing charges, forced exile, and closure of news outlets
31 August 2021
In the last week, Daniel Ortega's government has increased pressure on dissenting voices by formally charging 10 opponents with crimes against the state. Eight of those charged have been in prison since the end of May and were presented at an initial hearing, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Three of the accused so far are the journalists and siblings Cristiana, Pedro Joaquín and Carlos Fernando Chamorro Barrios. The first two are under arrest and the third one has been in exile for two months after receiving death and imprisonment threats. The Chamorro family is historically linked to journalism in Nicaragua and in particular to the newspaper La Prensa, which was raided and has been occupied by the police since 13 August.
On Tuesday 31 August, the Public Prosecutor's Office announced that it had also filed charges against journalists Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza, imprisoned since the beginning of June, accused of the crime of "conspiracy to undermine national integrity", to the detriment of Nicaraguan society and the State.
Forum "Latin American press under siege: Freedom for detained journalists".
Formal accusation against Carlos Fernando Chamorro
On August 24, the Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor's Office indicted journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro and his brother, the detained former deputy Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, for alleged money laundering. The charges were also extended to Cristiana Chamorro, their sister and a former presidential candidate who has been under house arrest since 2 June and involved an investigation into the Violeta Chamorro Foundation, which she headed until January.
"Ortega’s government is trying to silence me with an impeachment trial, but they will not succeed", warned Carlos Fernando Chamorro on his Twitter account.
Home confiscated from journalist forced into exile
Nicaraguan journalist Patricia Orozco, director of the digital portal Agenda Propia, reported on 24 August that the government confiscated her home and forced her relatives to vacate it within 24 hours, after she decided to go into exile due to pressures and threats against her.
The veteran communicator, who has been contacting for more than 20 years the program Onda Local , denounced the action of the government, which alleges that the house belongs to the state. However, it was the state that gave it to her to live in with her family 36 years ago. "They disregard the law and instead use it to harass and persecute me for my ideas and my journalistic work," Orozco said.
Radio Corporación closes two government-critical programs
On the 26 of August 2021, one day after the accusation against journalistCarlos Fernando Chamorro was made public, he announced that his program Confidencial Radio would no longer be broadcasted on Radio Corporación. He stated that the measure was "a consequence of the censorship imposed by the government and the threats to the media as a result of the criminalisation process" against him.
Four days later, Julio César López -director of Onda Local program- announced in a statement that the programme would no longer be broadcasted on Radio Corporación. López who, like Chamorro, was forced into exile because of threats, denied that his programme broadcasting "messages of hate" and invited his audience to keep following the transmission through his website www.ondalocal.com.ni.
Alfonso Baldioceda, the Corporation's press chief, said that the radio station "is in an uncomfortable and complex situation" and asked the public to "understand" this "difficult decision".
Opposition spokesman goes into exile due to threats
Young Nicaraguan journalist Josué Garay Alcántara, head of press for the opposition organisations Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (UNAB) and Coalición Nacional (CN), reported on Sunday 29 of August that he was forced to leave the country after receiving a warning of his imminent arrest.
"I have left Nicaragua as a matter of urgency due to acapture warning and migratory restriction imposed on me and other leaders of the National Unity and National Coalition. It has been hard, but at least now I can breathe. The struggle for a free Nicaragua is not over. It is getting harsher. #SOSNicaragua", Garay wrote on his Twitter account and posted a photo of his shoes covered in mud, which suggests that he left Nicaragua through "blind spots" on the border.
“In Nicaragua, every journalist has a plan to escape from the country”, was highlighted at a forum in Washington
The constant attacks on freedom of expression and press freedom experienced in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela were analyzed in the forum "Latin American press under siege: Freedom for detained journalists", which took place in Washington D.C. on August 31 .
The event was attended by journalists and human rights defenders, who portrayed the difficulties of exercising independent journalism in their countries, through case studies and experiences. Panelists included Univision journalist Tiffany Roberts; Radio Dario of Nicaragua journalist Anibal Toruño; Cuban democracy and human rights expert Armando Chaguaceda; Venezuelan journalist Luz Mely Reyes of Efecto Cocuyo; Carlos Roa of the Association of Venezuelan Journalists Abroad; and IACHR Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Pedro Vaca. Dagmar Thiel, CEO of Fundamedios USA, moderated the panel.
"In the last 20 months at least 27 journalists have been murdered in Latin America", highlighted Thiel during the opening event. A video with the faces of the murdered journalists and of those who are still imprisoned was shown.
Thiel argued that the murders of journalists cannot go unpunished. They must be investigated, and there must be consequences for those crimes.
In addition, she highlighted that journalists are being arbitrarily arrested: five journalists and a media director have been arrested in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela: "We call for solidarity with journalists in the region who are demanding freedom," said Thiel.
Univisión journalist Tifanni Roberts recalled that since the massive protests of 2018, there has been a dramatic change in how Daniel Ortega's mandate has treated dissident voices in Nicaragua, increasing repression and persecution. In June 2021, for example, the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation was shut down under false accusations of money laundering. Today Cristiana Chamorro remains under arrest.
"Every journalist in Nicaragua has an escape plan because they know that sooner or later they will be persecuted. Their families are followed, police are stationed outside their relatives’ houses in order to censor and terrorize them," Roberts said.
Anibal Toruño analysed the situation of the press in Nicaragua. He highlighted that since 2007, when Ortega took power, more than 23 media outlets were forced to close, either due to economic pressures or administrative orders.
"Since April 2018, more than half of the reporters have fled Nicaragua because they were facing some kind of threat," said Toruño, and recalled that the latest victim was La Prensa, the oldest and most important newspaper in the country, which was taken over by the Police. La Prensa’s director is currently under arrest on fabricated criminal charges. " In Nicaragua the police are persecuting journalists. Our homes, our children, our parents' homes, our jobs are in danger" said Toruño.
This event was organised by FUNDAMEDIOS, with the collaboration of the Press Freedom Committee, Voces del Sur, PADF, Race and Equality, SIP, Inter-American Dialogue, IFEX Latin America and the Caribbean, PEN America, PEN International and ICHR-RELE.
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
24 August 2021
The strategy of "news blackout”, designed by Daniel Ortega's government to silence and suffocate independent journalism in Nicaragua continues. After the recent police occupation of La Prensa newspaper and the actual confiscation of its raw material at the customs office, more journalists continue to go into exile.
Attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression persist in the country less than three months before the general elections, in which Ortega and Rosario Murillo -his wife and vice-president- will seek re-election for a new term, after having imprisoned seven presidential hopefuls as part of an unprecedented wave of arrests of opposition political leaders, journalists and professionals.
Nicaraguan journalists forced into exile
After crossing the Rio Bravo, journalist seeks asylum in the US
On 23 August 2021, independent digital publication Nicaragua Actual notified the departure from the country of Jacksell Herrera, one of its young contributors, who lived in the northern department of Jinotega and decided to go into exile because of constant threats from the police and Sandinista activists.
The 21-year-old journalist said that he had been harassed and besieged by the police and Sandinista sympathizers. Earlier this year he was expelled from public places, handcuffed by the police and more recently he received death threats.
"He detailed that he was muddy and sick after crossing the Rio Bravo during the night, and that he is already at the US border to turn himself in to the US immigration authorities and request asylum," reported Nicaragua Actual, one of the of government-critical media founded after the social upsurge of April 2018.
Octavio Enríquez leaves Nicaragua due to accusations by the Attorney General's Office
On 20 August 2021, Journalist Octavio Enríquez -winner of the 2011 Ortega y Gasset Award for his investigative work- reported that he had left Nicaragua to protect his physical integrity, after the Public Prosecutor's Office had summoned him for the second time to appear in the case of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
"Four shirts and two pairs of trousers. That was all I packed in my luggage when I decided to leave Nicaragua", Enríquez wrote and added: "A backpack containing twenty years of work resisting the siege of journalism, and produced in beloved newsrooms". Enríquez revealed that he was threatened by officials of the Attorney General's Office with being charged under the Special Cybercrime Law. Because of this law "colleagues in the national media have opted to stop signing their notes to protect their safety". Officially, they report clandestinely, “just as it happened in the old church atriums with the so-called catacomb journalism, during the Somoza era", he recalled. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato
17 August 2021
The Nicaraguan government's escalation to silence the independent press increased exponentially this week, when it ordered the blocking of more than 100 tonnes of paper from the newspaper La Prensa, the country's oldest and only print media, and ordered the occupation of its offices by the police, who have been in the building ever since.The attack on La Prensa, which the government accuses of "customs fraud and laundering of money, goods and assets", was condemned by numerous international organisations, from the IAPA to the OHCHR, which demanded that Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo immediately restore public freedoms in the country.
Nicaragua police raid La Prensa newspaper and arrest its general manager
Police raided La Prensa newspaper on Friday, 13 August, in a surprise deployment involving half a dozen patrol cars and numerous riot police, who cut off the Internet and electricity in the building. Journalists and workers in the offices were barred from using their mobile phones. Police indicated that it began an “investigation against La Prensa and its board of directors, for the crimes of customs fraud, money, property, and assets laundering, to the detriment of the State of Nicaragua and Nicaraguan society.” The same charges were brought against the general manager of La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, who was taken to the headquarters of the Judicial Assistance Directorate in the early hours of Saturday 14, with no further news of him, according to the same newspaper.
The newspaper, owned by the Chamorro and Holmann Chamorro families, was censored and closed down during the somocism in the 1970s. Its director, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, was assassinated in 1978 for being an outspoken opponent. In the 1980s, during the first Sandinista government, the newspaper was also censored and closed on several occasions.
Other members of the Chamorro family have suffered direct repression in recent months: Cristiana Chamorro, journalist and vice-president of the board of La Prensa, under house arrest; Juan Sebastián Chamorro, presidential hopeful, imprisoned; and journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, Cristiana’s brother and cousin respectively. Carlos Fernando is now in his second exile since 2018.
Critical media suppress journalists’ bylines for security reasons
Nicaragua's main independent media outlets have had to remove journalists' bylines from their articles as a protective measure, La Prensa revealed in a report published five days before its closure and police occupation.
"Given the escalation of attacks and threats to the independent press, since July, media outlets such as La Prensa, Confidencial and other digital media have decided to remove the signature of the writers of news articles," the newspaper said in a report monitoring violations of press freedom.
"This temporary and emergency measure is intended to protect the integrity of journalists threatened at all levels," the newspaper explained.
In the report entitled "Threats, exile, summons and refusal of information: the daily life of the independent press in Nicaragua", La Prensa said that in July at least 11 journalists who had been besiege and threatened by fanatics of the regime or the Public Ministry were "forced" to go into exile "to protect their lives and continue their journalistic work".
Journalist Marisol Balladares went through an ordeal in US
Journalist Marisol Balladares Blanco and her daughter Gloria Elena Escorcia Balladares are the most recent faces of the persecution suffered by journalists in Nicaragua. Both were forced to leave the country because of the harassment they suffered from the government.
The journalist, native of Bluefields, a city on the Caribbean Coast, worked for 15 years for Radio Corporación and collaborated with the magazine Conexión Caribe, a publication that has denounced the illegal exploitation of forests and the violence of ex-military personnel who invade indigenous territories.
In recent months, Balladares was the target of a kidnapping attempt and her arrest was ordered in Bluefields. On 28 March, as she was leaving the radio station, a paramilitary pulled out a knife and tried to attack her.
Her departure from Nicaragua was an ordeal. She reported that she and her daughter were victims of "inhuman violations" by US officials when she sought political asylum. "We were sent to 'La Joya' prison in Texas for 72 hours, with extremely low temperatures, sleeping on the floor, our clothes full of mud, with the right to bathe every four days. We were then flown to El Paso on a cracked plane, handcuffed at the foot and waist," she said. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
10 August 2021
The week begins in a context of high tension in Nicaragua, following the electoral tribunal's decision to withdraw the legal status of Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CxL), thus eliminating the last opposition party seeking to participate in the 7 November elections. At the same time, Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, and Rosario Murillo, Vice-President, were again nominated for the highest posts in the executive branch, while arrests of opposition politicians and other government actions aimed at curtailing public freedoms continued.
Unusual decree to control international awards
La Gaceta, Nicaragua's official gazette, published on 5 August 2021 an unusual decree signed by President Daniel Ortega, which warns that any foreign government or public or private organisation wishing to grant an award, decoration or recognition to a Nicaraguan entity or citizen must first seek the approval of the Nicaraguan government.
According to Article 24 of the decree, "the government, foreign state, international organisation or institution that wishes to grant an award, decoration or recognition to a Nicaraguan natural or legal person must first request the consent of the Nicaraguan government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so that it may grant, on the basis of reciprocity, the corresponding approval".
Según el artículo 24 del citado decreto, “el gobierno, Estado extranjero, organismo o institución internacional que desee otorgar premio, condecoración o reconocimiento a una persona natural o jurídica nicaragüense, deberá solicitar previamente el consentimiento del Gobierno de Nicaragua por conducto del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, a fin de que otorgue en términos de reciprocidad, el correspondiente beneplácito”.
The implausible provision received a barrage of criticism from artists, writers and independent journalists who in recent years have received important awards, such as the novelist Sergio Ramírez, winner of the 2017 Cervantes Prize for Literature, and the poet Gioconda Belli, winner of the 2020 Jaime Gil de Biedma Prize. "The Nicaraguan state attributes to itself powers that it only possesses in the absolutist imagination of the couple in power," said Belli, president of PEN-Nicaragua, commenting on the unprecedented decree.
Renowned singer-songwriters Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, who actively supported the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s and have been in exile since 2018 due to government repression, also described the decree as "ridiculous" and "disastrous". "Faced with the unusual decree that offends the right to think freely, we ask ourselves: how far will this totalitarian, neo-Stalinist, neo-Hitlerian regime go, which, exceeding George Orwell's predictions, forces us to ask permission to receive an international award?"
More journalists exiled due to harassment
On 5 August 2021, journalist Iván Olivares, a reporter for the publication Confidencial, announced that he had decided to go into exile after being subjected to two interrogationsat the Public Prosecutor's Office, where he was threatened with prosecution under the Special Law on Cybercrime (Law 1042).
In an open letter addressedto the Public Prosecutor's Office, mainly to prosecutor Heydi Ramírez, Olivares reported that during the interrogations, prosecutor Manuel Rugama questioned him about his journalism. "In both meetings I noticed that Rugama, a representative of the state, systematically tried to interfere in the internal affairs of my professional activity, which is governed by high principles of journalistic ethics, (...) on several occasions he tried to distort my words and even alter my statements", said Olivares.
According to La Prensa, at least 15 Nicaraguan journalists have been forced into exile in the last two months. Several of them have been forced to leave the country for the second time since 2018, when more than 90 independent communicators emigrated after receiving death and jail threats.•
Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vice-president of PEN International
Journalist summons continue to increase
2 August 2021
Fabio Gadea summoned to Public Prosecutor's Office for the second time
On 29 June 2021, Fabio Gadea, legendary journalist, director of Radio Corporación and presidential candidate of Nicaragua in 2011, was summoned for the second time to the Public Prosecutor's Office, or Ministerio Público, which was a previous instance for many of the current political prisoners. The Public Prosecutor's Office said that Gadea is being summoned as an interviewee, but did not specify the cause for which he has been summoned. In May of this year, Gadea was summoned by the Attorney General's Office; the reason was the case of alleged laundering of dollars from the now defunct Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. Fabio Gadea Mantilla, now in his nineties, is a persistent fighter for democracy and freedom of expression, and his media have been persecuted both by the Somozas during the Sandinista decade of the eighties and the current Ortega government. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
New arrests and court appearances of journalists
28 July 2021
Political commentator Jaime Arellano arrested
On 24 July, political commentator Jaime Arellano was placed under house arrest by the National Police, who opened an investigation for alleged "acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination by inciting foreign interference in internal affairs".
Arellano was also accused of allegedly "requesting military interventions; being financed by foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilisation; proposing economic and commercial blockades". These offences are set out in Law 1055. They correspond to the accusations under which more than 20 opponents were arrested in recent weeks .
Jaime Arellano, a communicator known for his critical stances against the government, and a deputy pre-candidate for the Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CXL) coalition, was arrested simultaneously with conservative politician Noel Vidaurre, the seventh presidential hopeful to be arrested since last June.
Journalists continue to be summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor's Office
On 27 July, journalist Verónica Chávez, former Executive Director of 100% Noticias and wife of imprisoned journalist Miguel Mora, appeared for the second time before the Public Prosecutor's Office after being summoned to testify in an investigation into alleged money laundering against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. More than 33 journalists have been summoned by the Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor's Office.
Chávez said that she answered all the questions and reiterated that both she and her husband "have committed no crimes". She added that after Miguel Mora's recapture a month ago, she has to take care of her disable son.
Mora was first imprisoned in December 2018, when the police occupied and closed down the television channel 100% Noticias, owned by Mora and his wife. The TV station's press officer, Lucía Pineda Ubau, who now lives in Costa Rica for security reasons, was also arrested. The building of 100% Noticias was confiscated by the government, but the channel keeps operating on digital platforms. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato.
IACHR grants precautionary measures in favor of journalists
19 July 2021
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of independent journalists Willih Francisco Narváez González and Alberto José Miranda Herrera, as requested by the Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Nunca Más.
On 11 July, the IACHR issued Resolution 52/2021 in favour of Narváez (MC-311-21) and Miranda Herrera (MC-462-21), after recognizing that they are in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable harm to their rights in Nicaragua.
According to the resolution, both are at risk because they are under police surveillance and siege, and because they are receiving death threats and harassment from government supporters, due to their work as journalists. For this reason, the IACHR requested Daniel Ortega's government to adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of both journalists.
Among the summoned journalists there are several members of the staff of Confidencial, a publication directed by Carlos Fernando Chamorro whose offices were raided by the police on two occasions (December 2018 and May 2021), as part of the government's repression strategy. Chamorro is now in exile in Costa Rica for the second time. He is the brother of presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro, who has been under house arrest since the 2 of June. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato.
New threats to press freedom and journalists
13 July 2021
Ortega joins list of "predators" of the press, says RSF
In its gallery of portraits published on 2 July, which updates the previous one from 2016, RSF includes a total of 37 "tyrants" from around the world whom it accuses of "massive repression of press freedom". This list includes, for the first time since its creation 20 years ago the head of a European Union country.
Ortega's inclusion on the list is due to the "economic asphyxiation and judicial censorship" to which he has been subjecting the press since he began his third consecutive term in office in November 2016, and which has taken a new direction with the prospect of presidential elections due to be held in November.
RSF notes that Ortega has reinforced “his arsenal of censorship” with "abusive" judicial actions against opponents in both politics and the media, and points to the Chamorro family, especially particularly the journalist and now also presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro, among his main victims.
IAPA mission urgently calls on Nicaragua to restore freedoms
The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) has called on goverments and international organization to take action in response to the situation in Nicaragua, in order to "restore freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of assembly, as well as the guarantees of due process of low".
During a virtual visit to Nicaragua, IAPA executives gathered raw testimonies about the escalation of repression by the government of Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo.
The IAPA will deliver a preliminary report to its Executive Committee, on 16 July 2021. The IAPA will also submit a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The organisation will urge human rights defenders to join forces to demand an immediate end to the repression of freedom of expression and press freedom, the release of journalists and political prisoners, and the full restoration of democratic institutions. It will also call on the international press to continue reporting to keep awareness of the critical situation in the country.
"In Nicaragua the threats, attacks and attempts to silence independent journalism are not recent, they date back to the arrival to power of Daniel Ortega's government in 2007”, said La Prensa.
The newspaper warned that "in the two-month period May-June 2021, violations of press freedom have increased on a large scale and with high levels of violence and state hostility". It added that the Special Law on Cybercrimes, in force since 30 December 2020, "is the main legal threat with which the government seeks to intimidate media directors, programme directors and reporters throughout the country".
Since the end of June, Vice President Rosario Murillo has been warning journalists not to publish "fake news" on health issues, including information from "false doctors and false prognoses" about the Covid-19 pandemic, and that these are punishable under the Special Law on Cybercrime, also known as the "Gag Law" (“Ley Mordaza”). This warning suggests possible new repressive actions by the authorities against journalists and doctors who have discussed the health crisis in the country. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Sabrina Tucci. PEN International.
Forced displacement of journalists; the Special Cybercrime Law threatens independent media
5 July 2021
During the last month, around 40 independent journalists and communicators have been summoned to testify before the Prosecutor's Office, mostly as part of the investigations on the alleged money laundering case, in which Daniel Ortega’s regime intends to involve the Violeta Barrios Foundation of Chamorro (FVBCH).
Among the communication professionals cited in recent days by the journalist, there is poet and director of "Radio Camoapa", Juan Carlos Duarte, who appeared to testify on June 25.
“It was a basic interview to fulfill the obligation, they asked me about my relationship with the FVBCH, which had to do with training, knowledge improvement, and scholarships. We have done absolutely nothing wrong, and what we said is true ”, said Duarte.
Georgina Ruiz, representative of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), reported that the questions that the prosecutors asked to Duarte were outside the law. “They were questions about the work he does as a journalist; he answered all the questions and obviously, there is the possibility -as in any investigation process- that he will be called again”.
Deterioration of democracy
On June 30, the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Antonia Urrejola, warned about what she described as the "intense asphyxia" of civil and political liberties in Nicaragua, after the arrest of 21 people linked to the opposition, including five presidential candidates for the November 7 elections.
Urrejola chaired a virtual public hearing of the IACHR on the situation of political rights in the Nicaraguan electoral context. She described the deterioration of democratic spaces and freedom of the press, expression and mobilization suffered by the Nicaraguans as "alarming".
Vilma Núñez, presidentof the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), said that the country is going through "one of the worst human rights crises in recent decades" and noted that its effects "have been so devastating that no figure can fully describe the gravity of the situation ".
Forced exile for communicators
In recent weeks, an unknown number of independent journalists have had to leave Nicaragua, due to harassment and threats from the government - according to what communicators are posting on social networks.
After the second exile of Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who has been in Costa Rica since mid-June, also journalists Sergio Marín Cornavaca (director of the “La Mesa Redonda” portal), and Julio César López(director of the radio program “ Onda Local ”, who wrote his experience in Confidencial) left the country. Several more journalists have gone into exile, but they have not revealed where.
"I estimate that there are at least 10 new journalists who have gone into exile to protect their freedom and safety" said Lucía Pineda Ubau, current director of the channel 100% Noticias (which broadcasts online after being closed and confiscated in 2018) who is also based in Costa Rica.
“The Ortega-Murillo regime is moving another heavy attack against the independent press. In 2018 we experienced a similar situation. More than 80 journalists had to go into exile – many of us were imprisoned or had to emigrate. Today we are seeing many colleagues leaving, "said Pineda Ubau, who was imprisoned for six months for having exercised her right to inform during the 2018 protests.
The president of the Nicaraguan Parliament threatens the media
On July 4 the president of the Nicaraguan National Assembly Gustavo Porrasthreatened to rigorously apply Law 1042 (the Special Cybercrime Law) against journalists and independentmedia that “misinform and act against the country and its people ".
Porras said that articles 28, 29 and 30 of this law punish those who "threaten" or "defame" Sandinista officials. “We have seen the media threatening even the president of the Republic and the vice president (...) we cannot continue to allow this” he said.
"We have these legal instruments, because anybody can come and talk about anything, and defame me on the media” he said.
He even targeted the international media that spread news about Nicaragua. "These transnational media belong to large corporations, they are the instruments through which musicians play the music that the Yankee tell them to play" said Porras.
On 5 July 2021, PEN Centre of Cuban Writers in Exile and the International Poetry Festival Foundation (FIPMI II) show their support to the Nicaraguan writers and journalists through a letter. Read the letter here. •
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina
Threats to journalists continue
16 Jun 2021
On 8 June 2021, independent journalist Wilfredo Miranda, of the digital news portal Divergentes, was summoned by the Public Prosecutor's Office, questioned about his work, and accuse of "lying" articles that he wrote and that criticize the government of Daniel Ortega.
Miranda said that prosecutor Heidi Ramírez had collectedseveral of his articles, which she showed him during a break in the session. "She began to accusing me, saying that I was lying, that I was violating the Cybercrime Law," said the journalist, who was summoned as a witness in the case of alleged money laundering against the Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (FVBCH) and its former director, journalist and presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro.
Miranda attributed the prosecutor's accusations to a newspaper article that he had written about the police raid of Chamorro’s house. Cristina Chamorro has been under house arrest since the 2 of June - with her house sieged and occupied by members of the National Police.
The judicial official also questioned the journalist about the news headlines he had published as a correspondent for the newspaper El País, "and basically she was shouting at me all the time and saying that I was lying", he said.
A similar attack was experienced by journalist Fabián Medina, a columnist for the local daily La Prensa, who was summoned by the prosecutor's office on the 10th June. He said that the prosecutor who questioned him during the summons accused him of "lying in his articles” and of not being able to "prove" his criticism of the regime.
"There is an attempt to turn the exercise of journalism into a crime, by defining what is a lie" and what is not, Medina declared at the end of the meeting. "This is a warning bell because they are touching a fundamental right in society", such as freedom of expression, press and information, he said.
In public interviews, the prosecutor's office insisted on the validity of the controversial Special Law on Cybercrime, approved at the end of 2020 by the parliament –dominated by the ruling party - which applies fines and prison sentences to those who disseminate and/or publish "false news or those who incite hatred" in the country.
CIDH grants precautionary measures in favour of journalist Kalua Salazar
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), by its acronym in Spanish) granted precautionary measures in favor of journalist Kalua Salazar and her family, in South Caribbean city of Bluefields, "after considering that they are in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable harm to their rights in Nicaragua".
Salazar is head of press for the radio station La Costeñísima. The IACHR based its precautionary measures on "the fact that she is a victim of threats, harassment and surveillance by state authorities and private individuals due to her journalistic work". For this reason, it asked the Nicaraguan government to "adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of Kalua Salazar and his family".
Since 2018 local media organizations, as well as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and PEN International, have demanded the government to respect for the human rights of journalist Salazar. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
More than 30 journalists questioned by authorities
9 Jun 2021
Police keep Cristiana Chamorro under house arrest
On 2 June, police and riot police raided the home of journalist and presidential aspirant Cristiana Chamorro on the outskirts of the Nicaraguan capital, who until 7 June had been placed under house arrestand held incommunicado. Police reported that they seized mobile phones and computers from the residence, as well as a large number of printed documents with which the government of Daniel Ortega seeks to incriminate her for alleged money laundering.
As of 7 June 2021, more than thirty journalists and independent media owners have been summoned as witnesses to testify in the investigation against Cristiana Chamorro, former Director of the Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. Among other well-known journalists, Álvaro Navarro, Director of the online media outlet Artículo 66, and Patricia Orozco, former Director of the radio show Onda Local, as well as Juan Lorenzo Hollman, Secretary of the board of directors of the daily La Prensa, and Eduardo Enríquez, Head of News at the same newspaper, have been summoned to testify.
In all cases, the journalists defended their professional work and accused the government of trying to implicate them in non-existent crimes in order to harm Cristiana Chamorro and, at the same time, intimidate and silence media outlets that are critical of the government.
Well-known Nicaraguan cultural personalities have not escaped this new escalation by the government. Six days earlier, on June 1st, the award-winning writer Sergio Ramírez, winner of the 2017 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, had been summoned to testify in his capacity as legal representative of the Fundación Luisa Mercado, a small NGO dedicated to cultural promotion, located in Masatepe, hometown of the novelist, south of the capital. The Prosecutor's Office questioned Ramírez about his NGO's links with the Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and he assured that all cultural cooperation projects were carried out in strict accordance with the laws of the country. Andrea M. Del Carmen, Programme Director of PEN Nicaragua, was also summoned to answer for the activities carried out in alliance with the foundation. •
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
"We have committed no crime": journalists facing legal harassment
31 May 2021
Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a Nicaraguan Journalist. Photo: Courtesy.
Carlos Fernando Chamorro receives the Ortega y Gasset Award
The renowned Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, whose offices were raided and seized on two occasions (December 2018 and May 2021), was awarded the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize in the Career category, by El País.
This award unanimously recognizes Chamorro’s professional career spanning more than four decades, his research and his dedication to the fight against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza who murdered his father, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal in 1978, as he was working as the director of La Prensa.
"I receive this award as the spokesperson of a message of encouragement to Nicaraguan journalism, for its resistance in defense of freedom, in this time of persecution," said Chamorro via Twitter.
The journalist spent a year in exile in Costa Rica (2018-2019) and directs the digital newspaper Confidencial, and the television programs “Esta Semana” and “Esta Noche”, whose installations were confiscated and occupied by police forces after the protests of 2018. On 20 May, in the framework of an investigation against his sister - journalist Cristiana Chamorro, the new headquarters of these media were raided and looted by the police and without a court order or explanation.
Journalists are summoned to testify before the Prosecutor's Office
During the last week of May, the investigative process against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), including its director, Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, and four other former employees, for alleged money laundering, continued.
On Thursday, 27 May, at least 18 journalists, photojournalists, and media directors had been called to testify. All those mentioned belong to digital newspapers and independent platform whose work is critical of the government.
The journalists agreed that the government’s aim is to silence dissident voices and affect Chamorro Barrios, the opposition figure most likely to win the November elections, where Ortega will seek his third re-election for a fourth consecutive term since 2007.
"We are experiencing a persecution and a criminalization of the profession," said journalist Ludwig Loáisiga, who participated in training workshops on digital journalism with the support of the FVBCH between November 2019 and December 2020.
Other media cited by the Prosecutor's Office include the radio station Radio Darío from the city of León (in western Nicaragua), which was attacked and set on fire by government activists during the 2018 protests, and the radio station La Costeñísima, whose press officer, Kalúa Salazar, has been the target of threats, police harassment and a lawsuit for alleged slander.
Two former employees of the Chamorro Foundation are imprisoned
On 28 May, without prior notice or court order, the former administrator of the FVBCH, Walter Gómez, and the former accountant Antonio Fletes, were forcibly removed from their homes by police and civilians, and taken to the prison of El Chipote, under the orders of the Police Judicial Assistance Directorate. A judge extended to 90 days the term to investigate them for the alleged crime of "laundering money, property and assets to the detriment of the State and society." Their relatives went to the police jail the next day to request information, but no response was given to them. That same day, Cristiana Chamorro attended a second meeting with the Prosecutor's Office, where she denounced that the government ordered her accounts to be frozen and bank secrecy to be lifted. These measures also applied to some of the other investigated people. Together with the correspondent for the Hispanic network Univisión in Managua, María Lilly Delgado, they had their status changed from "witnesses" to "defendants," which exposes them to possible arrest by the police. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and other local and international organizations condemned the detention of the former FVBCH employees. •
New escalation of repression against the media
25 May 2021
Police raid the offices of Confidencial. Image: Confidencial.ni
Offices of Confidencial, Esta semana and Esta noche raided
On Thursday 20 May 2021, Daniel Ortega's government ordered a new police raid and search, without a warrant, of the offices of the digital publication Confidencial and the recording studio of the television show Esta Semana and Esta Noche, media managed by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, in an action similar to the one carried out in December 2018.
The police prevented journalists who had arrived on the scene to cover the events. They temporarily detained and seized Agence France Presse (AFP) photographer Luis Sequeira, who was stripped of his mobile phone and had the footage he had filmed at the scene deleted. Confidencial photographer Leonel Gutiérrezwas also detained and held for almost seven hours.
It should be noted that Chamorro's new offices are located in a commercial building that rents offices to companies and institutions, whose employees were prevented by the police from leaving or entering during the hours of the raid, violating their right to freedom of movement. The journalist denounced thatthe police swept away with everything in his offices: documents, computers, master control and filming equipment.
"They stole everything, they left us an empty office, completely ransacked, guarded by three armed policemen. But they didn't shut us up and here we continue to demonstrate that they will never be able to confiscate journalism," said Carlos Fernando Chamorro.
Public Prosecutor's Office opens investigation against journalist Cristiana Chamorro
On 20 May 2021, on the same day and at the same time as the raid on the three independent media, the government announced an investigation for alleged money laundering against journalist Cristiana Chamorro, sister of Carlos Fernando, who until last January directed the Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (FVBCH), an NGO founded in 1997, dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and supporting independent media.
Cristiana Chamorro aspires to run as an opposition candidate in the elections scheduled for 7 November. She is the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios (1990-1997), who defeated Ortega at the polls for the first time in 1990, and journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor of the newspaper La Prensa, who was assassinated in 1978 by alleged assassins of dictator Anastasio Somoza.
The journalist was summoned twice in less than 30 hours(to the Ministry of the Interior and the Public Prosecutor's Office). There she assured that the financial operations of the FVCH are transparent and accused the government of setting up a "macabre" plot and a "legal monstrosity" to prevent her nomination for the presidency."Ortega is terrified"of being defeated again in elections, Chamorro said. The deadline for the registration of presidential candidacies expires on 2 August, so Cristiana Chamorro could miss if she is still under investigation.
Media offensive against the independent press
Following the lawsuits and the raid on media premises on 21, 22 and 23 May 2021, anonymous videos circulated widely on social networks and in various publications, accusing the Chamorro Barrios brothers and directors of independent digital media ofreceiving fundingfrom abroad to "destabilise" the government. The allegations involve well-known journalists, including Miguel Mora, former director of the channel 100% Noticias (closed and confiscated in 2018 but operating as a digital media); Álvaro Navarro, director of Artículo 66; David Quintana, director of Boletín Ecológico, and Jennifer Ortiz, director of Nicaragua Investiga. All of them work from Nicaragua. Exiled journalists in the United States and Costa Rica, such as Luis Galeano, director of the digital TV show Café con Voz, which broadcasts from Miami, are also implicated in alleged illicit activities.
As a result, journalists warned of this new escalation of repression and disinformation, which seeks to silence the independent press in order to impose censorship on the electoral process and prevent obstacles to Ortega's intentions of winning a third re-election and starting a new presidential term in January 2022, which would be his fifth term since 1985 (and his fourth in succession).
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
Arbitrary arrests and trials of journalists are taking place
11 May 2021
The story of two harassed reporters who are facing arbitrary trials shows how the Nicaraguan government is increasing repressive measures against media, journalists and writers expressing critical positions.
Reporter arrested in northern region of Nicaragua
The Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Nunca Más is based in Costa Rica and condemned the arbitrary detention of Nicaraguan journalist Jacdiel Rivera Cornejo, correspondent for Channel 10 television.
Rivera was arrested on May 5 as he was working on a journalistic coverage in the municipality of Yalí – Jinotega. Through a text message, he managed to inform that he was being detained. Allegedly, Rivera was transferred to the Yalí police station for a supposed robbery. Thereafter he was set free.
“In the police-truck, one of the officers told me that I was destabilizing the country. At the station, they told me that I was cheating. When I was released, they told me that I should always identify myself and report my activity to the Police,” said the journalist.
Four days earlier, the journalist had appeared on Facebook Live denouncing that police agents were preventing him from covering a drug seizure. According to Rivera, the police also sieged him and threatened to take him to prison.
Journalist David Quintana payed his fine thanks to a fundraising action.
Through a fundraising action, independent journalist and director of Boletín Ecológico David Quintana managed to collect the 13,500 Cordobas (about 387 USD) which he was fined by a local judge who found him guilty of the crimes of defamation and slander, in a case against the press that was flagged as "political".
It took him 42 days to raise that amount with the help of colleagues and friends. Thereafter, a second judge dismissed his appeal. “I asked my people to support me, because unfortunately all my legal resources are exhausted. In this situation I always have to pay. Journalists who are covering the Nicaraguan crisis will definitely not get rich" said Quintana. Quintana has upheld his innocence because Nicaraguan laws do not prevent interviews. He is deeply grateful for the support received "by humble people". Indeed, on one occasion he received a $ 0.05 deposit – and a peasant woman told him that she sold a chicken to help with the fundraise. •
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina
Official narratives are being imposed
4 May 2021
The Nicaraguan police raided a journalist's funeral in Bluefields
On 30 April 2021, police officers and paramilitaries besieged the wake and funeral of Ileana Lacayo, a Nicaraguan journalist who died on 29 April due to a Covid-19 related condition. Relatives and colleagues of the communicator resisted the siege.
Lacayo was the first journalist to cover the murder of her colleague Ángel Gahona, who was shot to death in April 2018 as he was covering a demonstration in Bluefields. This fact forced the reporter to temporarily move to Costa Rica. Lacayo is the third independent journalist to die from Covid-19.
The government is imposing its "official narrative" and persecutes the press.
After 14 years in power and in the midst of a repressive escalation, the government of Daniel “Ortega has targeted the independent press with censorship, siege and persecution”, denounced journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, founder and director of the Confidencial portal.
We have reached "a situation where the regime is perceiving the press not just as opposition, but as the enemy - and the enemy needs to be crushed," argued Chamorro in its talk at the XIV Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, together with Luz Mely Reyes, the Venezuelan co-founder and director of Efecto Cocuyo.
The colloquium was held virtually on the first of May 2021. It analyzed the authoritarian methods adopted by supposedly democratic governments, addressing the cases of Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Chamorro warned that in recent years the Nicaraguan government “has gone from harassing the press, lynching journalists, closing access to public information and practicing espionage” to a stage of “shutting democratic spaces, imposing television censorship, perpetrating physical attacks against reporters, and criminalizing the practice of journalism”.
Censorship and harassment on World Press Freedom Day.
The 3 of May, during World Press Freedom Day, some local media released a report from the newspaper La Prensa that summarizes the situation of freedom of expression and information in Nicaragua during the first quarter of the year.
According to the report, 53 attacks on press freedom were registered during this period, 43 of which were attacks on independent media and journalists. The outlets 100% Noticias and Confidencial are still confiscated.
“From perpetrating physical attacks and approving repressive laws, the Ortega regime has now moved to illegally seizing assets belonging to the media and civil society organizations. On February 23, repressive officials and institutions seized television channel 100% Noticias, the newsrooms of Confidencial digital portal, and the Niú Magazine. These assets were taken illegally, and now belong to the Ministry of Health by order of Ortega" highlights the report.
Radio Voz Juvenil and Radio Humedales from the municipalities of El Castillo and San Miguelito (department of Río San Juan - south) are still shut after the government invalidated the legal status of the environmental NGO Fundación del Río and confiscated all its assets.
The report also refers to the forced suspension of the work of organizations that defend freedom of expression such as PEN Nicaragua and the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, which ceased their operations in order not to submit to the Foreign Agents Law. Newspaper La Prensa has now replaced the Chamorro Foundation in reporting episodes of harassment and attacks on the press. •
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina
Persecution of journalists on the rise
27 April 2021
This week, the information on Nicaragua shows an increase in threats and harassment against journalists who cover political events, while reporters from various sources are also persecuted.
Photo: Journalist René Guzman
On 18 April 2021, René Guzmán, a Nicaraguan sport journalist, was expelledfrom the broadcasting room in the Roberto Clemente Stadium in Masaya, while he was reporting the first division games.
The stadium workers told him that they expelled him "for being a coup leader and a terrorist." Guzmán attended a mass on 18 April in the same city, in a church where was commemorated the third anniversary of the protest of April 2018, which, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at least 320 people dead during the demonstrations.
Noel Miranda, a journalist for Article66, was attacked on 21 April in the San Miguel de Masaya church while covering a mass in honour of the student Álvaro Gómez, who died during the events of the April 2018 protests. At the end of the mass, Miranda was beaten and verbally assaulted. The police, who had completely surrounded the place, did not arrest the aggressor or try to stop the attack.•
Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante
Repression is increasing
20 April 2021
This report on Nicaragua reflects a worrying upsurge intensification of repression and harassment against journalists - while the 18 April was the third anniversary of the spark of protests against the government.
Photo: Managua, April 2018
Kalúa Salazar, journalist and press director of Radio La Costeñísima in Bluefields, was harassed in the early morning of April 19 by the National Police, and prevented from leaving her house to go to work. "As I was about to leave mu house, a police van prevented me to do so and a riot police hit me in front of my mother and my daughters," denounced Salazar on Twitter.
She is the mother of two young girls. One of them had a panic attack as a result of the police aggression. In September 2020, the reporter was found guilty of the crime of slander, as a result of the publication of a journalistic note where she exposed cases of corruption involving government entities.
On April 19, journalists from different media were attacked and besieged for several hours by the police, preventing them to cover a protest in the city of Managua.
Reporters were besieged and intimidated during press conference
On April 16, several Nicaraguan journalists were harassed, besieged and intimidated while covering a press conference. Among the threatened journalists there were David Quintana from Boletín Ecológico, José Abraham Sánchez from Channel 10, Marcos Medina from Channel 12, and Noel Miranda from Article66.
Journalist Alberto Miranda was threatened
On April 5, LiteralNi reporter Alberto Miranda was threatened by policemen and thugs, while covering a popular protest in the capital of Managua. Miranda invited to stop reporting on the protest and warned that he is under surveillance. •
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina
Journalists and writers who are critical of power are harassed and silenced by the police
13 April 2021
David Quintana, director of "Boletín Ecológico".
Radio Universidad suspends programs that criticize the Nicaraguan government
On 6 April 2021, it was announced that Radio Universidad —one of the first radio stations of the Central American University (UCA) — would become a digital platform, and three of its government-critical programs would be shut down.
The programs Onda Local, Cuerpos Sin Vergüenzas de La Corriente and Café con Voz were suspended, supposedly, due to the need to upgrade their equipment. These programs, which are critical of the government, have expressed their disappointment for losing such an important platform.
Independent Journalists and Communicators of Nicaragua (PCIN) condemned the decision to change the radio structure during an election year. They argued that “More and more independent media are threatened to close down due to economic asphyxia, legal pressure, because of mercenary and repressive laws, harassment, threats, and censorship”.
Block of news coverage
On 9 April 2021, a police agent confiscated the mobile phone of Diario La Prensa’s journalist Carlos Larios, preventing him from covering the campaign of three presidential candidates who were detained for several hours in the Managua International Airport as they were about to travel.
Meanwhile, David Quintana —director of the news outlet Ecological Bulletin— had his appeal denied. Quintana had been convicted for allegedly committing the crime of slander, and sentenced to pay a 200-day fine (corresponding approximately to $384) by the Fifth Local Judge of Managua. Quintana has started a crowdfunding to pay that fee.
PCIN denounced the increasing surveillance and police harassment of journalist Kalúa Salazar, press chief of Radio La Costeñísima, who lives in her apartment surrounded by the police, in what appears to be an attempt at intimidating her.
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina
Resolution on Nicaragua condemns repression; reporters under legal harassment
Journalists under legal and criminal harassment: Kalúa Salazar and David Quintana
On 22 March 2021, Kalúa Salazar, journalist and press chief of Radio La Costeñísima, denounced that at least ten agents of the Special Operations Directorate Police (DOEP) besieged her home located in the Beholden neighborhood of Bluefields, in the Nicaraguan Caribbean, where she was staying with her family.
Salazar faces a judicial process for allegedly committing “slander” to the detriment of workers of the Mayor's Office of El Rama. On 23 September 2020 she was found guilty by Judge Deyanira Traña and sentenced to 120 day of jail. However, a few weeks ago, accusation lawyer Denis José Báez Sevil, requested that the sentence be extended to 300 days. Salazar points out that her case is “political” and that the judgment has unjustly privileged the Mayor's Office workers.
Since 2019, the police have visited Salazar's home on several occasions. However, she denounced that since the beginning of this year, police qagents have been permanently surveilling her house.
Meanwhile, Boletín Ecológico director David Quintana faced an appeal hearing in Managua after being sentenced to 200 days of jail on February 17. He is also accused of “slander”, for covering an eviction event that occurred in the capital on 17 June 2020.
Although Nicaraguan law (Art. 131, Penal Code) states that crimes like slander and defamation need to be denounced by the victim within thirty days, the judicial process against Quintana began five months after the alleged events.
The Human Rights Council calls on the Nicaraguan government to reestablish civic spaces. It condemns the persistence of bans on public demonstrations, and the disproportionate use of force by Ortega’s police to repress social protests. Repression involves acts of intimidation, harassment and illegal or arbitrary surveillance of journalists, human rights defenders and minority groups.
The Resolution addresses freedom of press and expression, highlighting that a growing number of civil society organizations and media are being forced to cease their activities due to financial restrictions. It also highlights the “arbitrary cancellation of their legal records, and the impact of these closures (…) on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, association, and the right to privacy”. The Resolution urges “the Government of Nicaragua to restore legality in the process of registration of civil society organizations and independent media, which were forced to close since 2018 (…)”.
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina
Journalists under legal harassment and threats
23 March 2020
PEN International, PEN America, PEN Argentina, and PEN San Miguel de Allende, with the support of other PEN Centres in the Americas, establish the International Observatory “Eye on Nicaragua”. This is a space where the Nicaraguan government’s sustained censorship attempts are exposed and documented. It is also a space where the constant threats toward Nicaraguan journalists and writers are denounced, including those who were harassed and intimidated as they celebrated National Journalist day on 1 March 2020.
The trial against journalist Kalúa Salazar, press officer of La Costeñísima radio station, continues. On 23 September 2020, judge Deyanira Traña found her guilty of allegedly committing “slander” against three female workers from the Mayor's Office of El Rama.
On 29 September, judge Shura Bonilyn Welcome Crawford, head of the Criminal District Trial Court of Bluefields, sentenced Salazar to 120 days imprisonment. However, at the beginning of March 2021 lawyer Denis José Báez Sevil, representative of the three female workers, requested that the sentence be extended to 300 days imprisonment. Salazar said that the trial was “political” and was maneuvered against her. Salazar also pointed out that the trial would send an intimidating message to those who are willing to make “public complaints”.
At the end of February 2021, Divergentes’ journalist Wilih Narváez reported that a group of unidentified people threw stones at his mother's house. He also reported that Daniel Ortega’s government supporters have repeatedly accused him of being a "coup plotter", calling him a "dog", and a "manipulator". On 4 March 2020, Narváez received death threats on social media by a woman affiliated to the government party.
A journalist from Confidencial media, whose facilities were confiscated by the police in 2018, reported that the agents took Zapata’s notebook.
Abigaíl Hernández, director of the newspaper Galería News and member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Independent Journalists and Communicators (PCIN), reported that six riot police officers surrounded her aggressively after she refused to be searched. It was also reported that police officers took photos and videos of Leonor Álvarez, a journalist from the newspaper La Prensa.
Since April 2018 Nicaragua has been experiencing a socio-political crisis which has saw more than 300 deaths, thousands of exiles, attacks on media, the closing of many NGOs, and the imprisonment of hundreds of people for political reasons.
PEN International reiterates its firm and determined call on the Nicaraguan government to:
· Stop all forms of aggression, legal harassment, threat and persecution against critical and independent journalists.
· Respect the agreements signed by the Nicaraguan Government as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America - Encargado regional para America Latina