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Eye on Nicaragua - Observatory

Tuesday 21 September 2021 - 12:00pm

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.

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.

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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

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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.

The event can be accessed by this link

Translation: Lucina Kathmann, Vice-president of PEN International



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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.

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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.

A recording of the forum is available here.•

Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante and Alessandro Zagato

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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


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Journalist summons continue to increase

2 August 2021

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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

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New arrests and court appearances of journalists

28 July 2021

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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.

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IACHR grants precautionary measures in favor of journalists

19 July 2021

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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.

Journalists continue to be summoned

At least six independent journalists were summoned last week by the Nicaraguan Attorney General's Office to testify in investigations against theVioleta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), an NGO that worked for 35 years in defence of freedom of expression and which the government of Daniel Ortega accuses of alleged money laundering.

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.



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New threats to press freedom and journalists

13 July 2021

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Ortega joins list of "predators" of the press, says RSF

Leaders of autocratic countries, such as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but also leaders of formally "democratic" countries, such as Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and Hungary's Viktor Orbán, have become "predators of the press" according to Reporters Without Borders (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.

Daniel Ortega seeks to impose ‘news blackout’

According to a report published on 11 July by the daily La Prensa, the country's oldest newspaper, the Nicaraguan government is "trying to establish a news blackout" in the country less than four months before the elections in which President Daniel Ortega, in power since 2007, will seek his third re-election.

"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.

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Forced displacement of journalists; the Special Cybercrime Law threatens independent media

5 July 2021

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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.

International Solidarity

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



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Threats to journalists continue

16 Jun 2021

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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

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More than 30 journalists questioned by authorities

9 Jun 2021

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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.

During the police deployment, government forces attempted to obstruct the work of journalists covering the event. Several reporters were beaten by riot police.

More journalists summoned in Chamorro case

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

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"We have committed no crime": journalists facing legal harassment

31 May 2021

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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. •

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New escalation of repression against the media

25 May 2021

Police raid the offices of Confidencial. Image: Confidencial.ni

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.

Read our position of 20 May 2021: Human rights organisations demand an end to repression against critical voices and journalists in Nicaragua.

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

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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.

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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

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Official narratives are being imposed

4 May 2021

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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

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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.

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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 Bustamante

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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.

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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

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Journalists and writers who are critical of power are harassed and silenced by the police

13 April 2021

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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

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Resolution on Nicaragua condemns repression; reporters under legal harassment

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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

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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.

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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

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