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Nicaragua: End crackdown on free press and peaceful protest

Friday 7 September 2018 - 4:23pm

Alfredo Zúñiga being attacked (Source: Comercio)


7 September 2018

PEN International is deeply concerned by the deteriorating climate for freedom of expression in Nicaragua. Since the outbreak of social protests against reforms to the countrys social security system in April 2018, the Nicaraguan authorities have failed to defend its citizenshuman rights, including their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and information.

Writers, journalists, bloggers, and citizens, who have been reporting on the situation have faced intimidation, threats, attacks, harassment, as well as the robbery and confiscation of their equipment. PEN International calls on the Nicaraguan authorities to protect its citizenshuman rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Please send appeals to the Nicaraguan authorities:

  • Expressing alarm at their failure to defend its citizens’ human rights;
  • Urging them to protect the rights of all to freely express their opinions without fear of reprisal;
  • Urging the immediate investigation of the deaths, damage to property and persecution of journalists, bloggers and writers, ensuring that there are sufficient financial, material and human resources to seek and publish the results of such investigations, and bring the perpetrators to justice;
  • Calling on them to refrain from making public statements that stigmatise journalists, and others, and from using state media outlets to conduct public campaigns that may encourage violence against individuals because of their opinions;
  • Urging them to comply with its obligations to protect freedom of expression and assembly as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Send appeals to:

President of the Republic

Daniel Ortega

Presidencia de la Republica, frente a Palacio Nacional, 4 Calle Noroeste Managua, Nicaragua, 11001

Fax: +505 2228 9090

Twitter: @EPP_Nicaragua, @DanielOrtega_Ni

Salutation: Dear President/ Estimado Presidente

We recommend that you copy your appeal to the Nicaraguan embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments. See this useful link to find the contact details of the Nicaraguan embassy in your country: Nicaraguan embassies abroad

A letter or petition signed by an eminent member of your Centre may make it more likely for your appeal to be considered. Similarly, if your appeal is published in your local press and copied to the Nicaraguan ambassador, this too may have greater impact.

**Please contact PEN International in London if sending appeals after 30 September 2018**

Please keep us informed of any action you take, including any responses you receive from the authorities.


PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the situation in Nicaragua.
  • Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations.
  • Share information about the climate for freedom of expression in Nicaragua and your campaigning activities via social media

Remember to let us know about your activities and to send us reports about them so that we can share them with other Centres.


Tensions were already high in April 2018 following the Nicaraguan government’s slow response in tackling forest fires in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. However, when the government announced reforms to the country’s social security system on 18 April 2018 the peaceful protests gained momentum. In response, the Nicaraguan authorities and pro-government groups have sought to systematically suppress dissent through means of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, harassment, intimidation and stigmatisation campaigns. As a result of the violent response, the protests have spread across the nation and converted into calls for political reforms and the resignation of President Daniel Ortega.

As of mid-August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have reported that at least 322 people have been killed, while thousands more have been injured. The vast majority of the attacks have been reportedly perpetrated by pro-government armed groups and police forces. Among the dead are university students, protesters, children, and television journalist Ángel Eduardo Gahona López, who was shot dead in Bluefields on 21 April during a Facebook Live broadcast while reporting on the protests.

Writers, journalists, bloggers, and citizens, who have been reporting on the situation have faced intimidation, threats, attacks, harassment, as well as the robbery and confiscation of their equipment.

Within one day of the outbreak of protests, PEN Nicaragua denounced attacks on 12 members of the Nicaraguan press and drew attention to the government’s move to block the broadcast of several television channels, including Canal 100% Noticias, Canal 12, Canal 23, and Canal 51, among others. A day later, on 20 April, pro-government groups set fire to Radio Darío’s headquarters with several members of its team still inside; all escaped unharmed. By May, at least 15 journalists working at three of the country’s main television channels had resigned out of protest against government censorship. According to PEN Nicaragua, in the month of August, the team at Canal 10, the television channel with the largest coverage and national reach, has been threatened and the government has made several attempts to intervene in the channel.

Rather than investigating credible and consistent allegations of human rights violations, the government has placed blame on protest leaders, human rights defenders and the media; smear campaigns – including labelling pro-opposition voices as “terrorists” or accusing them of “attempting to overthrow the government” – and threats of prosecution have become the norm. In May, three members of PEN Nicaragua, Yaser Morazán, Pierre Pierson and Gioconda Belli were accused of being behind an alleged terrorist conspiracy to overthrow the government in an anonymous video circulated on social media. Such campaigns threaten the integrity and security of their targets. Most recently, in what is thought to be an attempt to influence their editorial lines, the authorities have threatened independent media outlets with prosecution. In August 2018, the government’s Financial Analysis Unit reportedly announced that it was investigating employees of the independent television station Canal 10 for alleged money laundering. While employees of television station 100% Noticias are also reportedly facing death threats and threats of prosecution.

Media outlets have raised concerns that they could face prosecution under new legislation passed by the National Assembly on 16 August which includes new crimes related to terrorism, including the financing of terrorism. Such concerns are heightened given that current trials of individuals charged in connection to their participation of protests are reported to have serious flaws and failures in due process by both the IACHR’s Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. PEN International is deeply concerned to learn that the Nicaraguan authorities have restricted the access of independent observers, such as the press or United Nations, to court proceedings, including a 15 August hearing regarding the murder of journalist Ángel Eduardo Gahona López.

For further information please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: