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Eye on Nicaragua - Observatory

Tuesday 11 May 2021 - 7:30pm

Eye On Nicaragua

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.

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

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

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 Bustamente


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

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.

Read our statement - 31 March 2021.

The work of journalists is being prevented

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.

David Quintana

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.

Kalúa salazar

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.

Read the statement on Kalúa Salazar

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.

Human Rights Council Resolution

On 23 March 2021, the UN Human Rights Council approved a Resolution on the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua, which condemns the repression and harassment of journalists and activists.

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.


Kalúa salazar

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”.

Wilih Narvaez

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.

Reporters threatened by police officers

In February 2021, independent journalists who were covering the campaign of an opposition candidate were harassed, groped, and threatened by police officers. Journalist Kastalia Zapata reported that an officer sexually assaulted her, as she was about to cover the event.

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