The authorities in Nicaragua must withdraw all the charges against writer Sergio Ramírez, PEN International said today. The accusations, detention order and search warrant issued against Ramírez are a clear example of Daniel Ortega’s government onslaught on freedom of expression.
“The charges and accusations against our colleague Sergio Ramírez make us all indignant at PEN International. We are not only raising our voices to defend him, but also continuing to defend freedom of expression in Nicaragua -having witnessed how the Nicaraguan authorities have developed a legal system of harassment and policing to silence writers and journalists,” Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.
On 8 September 2021, the Public Ministry of Nicaragua formally accused Ramírez of “carrying out acts to incite hatred and violence, because he had received funds via Fundación Luisa Mercado, originating from Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro”, and issued a detention order and warrant to search his home. The Public Prosecutor's Office stated that the funds were deviated to finance “people and organisations that want to destabilise the good economic and social development of the country”.
Ramírez is a Nicaraguan writer, novelist, journalist and recipient of the Cervantes Literature Prize 2017. His work includes The Fugitive; Divine Punishment; Oficios compartidos; The Masked Ball; Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea; Goodbye, Fellows; Sombras Nada Más; A Thousand Deaths Plus One; El Reino Animal; The Sky Weeps For Me; and Flores Oscuras.
The 79 years old award-winning author, was Vice-President of Nicaragua during the first government of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) between 1979-1990. He is also a member of PEN Nicaragua, and has actively campaigning on behalf of persecuted and censored writers, as well as participating in PEN activities, such as the most recent regional meeting of PEN Centres in the Americas in July 2021.
In a public video published on Twitter Ramírez said: “The dictatorship of the Ortega family has accused me, through their own Prosecution and in front of their own judges, of the crimes of inciting hate and violence, deteriorating the national integrity, and others that I didn’t have time to read, accusations for which many dignified and brave Nicaraguans are currently in prison (…) As they announced that they searched my house, what they’ll found is a house full of books. The books of a writer. The books of my whole life. I’m a writer committed to democracy and freedom, and I won’t give up on this wherever I am. My literary work is the work of a free man. The only weapons I have are words, and nobody will silence me.”
PEN International has documented the increasing repression and systematic persecution against independent press and voices through its Observatory “Ojo en Nicaragua”. The current political crisis and the recent intimidations, judicial processes, harassment and arbitrary detentions against journalists and critical writers, demonstrate an increasingly worrying climate under Daniel Ortega’s regime.
Over the last few months, Nicaragua has seen multiple judicial processes against critical voices and opposition leaders. To date, 33 people are currently being detained for exercising their right to criticize the current government, labelled as “ government opponents”.
This is an act of hostility against critical thinking and the mediums where thinking manifests, which aims to inhibit the work of journalists at a crucial moment. A few months away from the next national elections, it is necessary to respect democracy, human rights and public freedoms.
PEN International renews its urgent call to the authorities in Nicaragua to stop all aggressions, persecutions and judicial processes against writers, journalists and independent media.
For more information, please contact Alicia Quiñones, Americas Programme Coordinator, at PEN International, email: firstname.lastname@example.org