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Nicaragua: control of paper distribution confirms dire situation for journalism

Monday 2 September 2019 - 5:25pm

"In July 2019, El Nuevo Diario announced that it had been obliged to reduce the print format after the customs authorities retained its paper and ink."

London, 27 August 2019 – The Nicaraguan government’s policies towards media outlets and journalists demonstrate the crisis for freedom of expression and information which journalists, editors and writers face, said PEN International and PEN Nicaragua today, after daily newspapers LA Prensa and El Nuevo Diario announced a reduction to their print edition due to the authorities’ refusal to release from customs paper and ink imported by the outlets.

La Prensa denounced the arbitrary retention of its import of printing materials in January 2019. However, the situation reportedly remains unchanged and has forced La Prensa – which has been circulating for nearly 100 years – to reduce its edition to four pages, leaving intellectuals, writers and journalists without space. In July 2019, El Nuevo Diario announced that it had been obliged to reduce the print format after the customs authorities retained its paper and ink.

The ongoing harassment of the critical newspapers such as La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, which has been described as “de facto censorship” by journalists, follows a wave of repression towards independent media in the country sparked by the violent control of protests in April last year. The free expression crisis is made all the more acute by the fact that an estimated 100 Nicaraguan journalists have been forced to flee into exile for fear of exercising their profession in their country, and the harassment and confiscation of facilities of media outlets critical of the government, such as 100% NoticiasConfidencialEsta Noche and Esta Semana. On 21 December 2018, the police raided the offices of 100% Noticias, a privately owned cable and internet news station in Managua, and detained its director general, Miguel Mora and news director Lucía Pineda Ubau. The pair were released under a controversial new amnesty law in June 2019.

Months prior, on 21 April 2018, television journalist Ángel Eduardo Gahona López was shot dead while reporting live on air. Also in April 2018, pro-government groups set fire to Radio Darío’s headquarters with several members of its team still inside; all escaped unharmed. In that regard, the experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed their concern not only about the workers of Radio Darío, also for the situation of journalists in Nicaragua.

The confiscation of media outlets renders the State of Nicaragua responsible for a triple attack: against the freedom of the press, against the freedom of enterprise and against property rights enshrined in the Nicaraguan Constitution.

The Government of Nicaragua has not ruled on the confiscation of the media outlets despite agreements it signed with the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy in the month of March this year, included a commitment guaranteeing the return of the facilities and journalistic equipment.

PEN International and PEN Nicaragua make an urgent call on the government of Nicaragua to:

  • End its violations against freedom of the press and business, as well as the attacks and imprisonment of journalists;
  • Deliver the paper and ink which it has been withholding from La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario since 2018, as well as the facilities and equipment of media outlets such as 100% NoticiasConfidencialEsta Noche and Esta Semana.
  • Immediately end attacks perpetrated by police officers and paramilitary groups against journalists, independent media outlets, bloggers and writers, as was the case with the journalists of 100% Noticias.
  • Guarantee the life and security, as well as all other human rights, of all its citizens.