Attacks against independent journalists escalate alarmingly in Nicaragua and international community reacts

(Picture: Oscar Navarrete, La Prensa).

Washington, D.C., December 6th, 2018. Attacks against journalists, editors, and media owners perpetrated by authorities and supporters of the government party FSLN have increased in the last two months in Nicaragua, according to testimonies of reporters and organizations.

The Violeta B. de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH, for its initials in Spanish), counted a total of 77 violations of freedom of expression in Nicaragua between October 20th and December 3rd. Between April 18th, the day the current human rights crisis began, and December 3rd, there have been a total of 497 cases of assaults, harassments, arbitrary arrests, espionage and non-routine inspections.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF, for its initials in Spanish) denounced last week that police forces “are no longer content to obstruct the work of journalists,” but “they are now directly taking violent actions against journalists they consider too critical of the government.”

Nicaragua is going through a human rights crisis caused by the government-led repression of peaceful demonstrations across the country. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), this repression has left as of now at least 325 dead and more than 2,000 people injured. Additionally, hundreds of persons are political prisoners and more than 50,000 citizens have fled to Costa Rica.

Recent aggressions

The last attack on the media was reported on December 3rd, when police officers forcefully entered the headquarters of Radio Darío in the city of León. According to the staff members who were inside the building, a group of policeman forced them to stop the radio broadcasting and handcuffed them under threat of imprisonment.

“It was all a police operation, a huge outpouring of force and vehicles. They surrounded the block where we are located for three hours,” Aníbal Toruño, director of Radio Darío, told the journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro on the television program Esta Noche.

Toruño blamed the First Police Commissioner of Leon, Fidel Domínguez, for ordering the arbitrary procedure and stated that authorities are “trying to destroy the emotional and psychological stability of workers to disintegrate the staff of Radio Darío.”

Radio Darío has been besieged by the authorities and supporters of the FSLN since the beginning of the crisis. On April 20th, the radio installations were burned completely by two well-known cadres of the ruling party. After that, three of the radio collaborators, Leo Cárcamo, Henry Blanco and Audberto Gallo, as well as Toruño, were granted precautionary measures (No. 693-18) by the IACHR.

Toruño assured that the radio will continue transmitting its regular programming now from other facilities, “assuming [we have] the constitutional right to free expression.”

Also on December 3rd, in the morning, government media reported that supporters of the ruling party made a formal accusation before the  Office of the Public Prosecutor against Miguel Mora, director and owner of Channel 100% Noticias for “inciting hatred and violence” through the news programming that his channel transmits. They also accused him, despite a lack of evidence, for the disappearance and alleged murder of Bismarck Martínez, a citizen who supposedly died during the month of June.

Mora, who has been harassed and detained six times by police agents, denied the accusations and assured that authorities are trying to use a “legal” device to imprison him and silence the reports of human rights violations committed by the government that are transmitted on his channel every day.

“This is being done to censor and silence the independent media of this country… this is part of the dirty smear campaign that has the sole purpose of censoring 100% Noticias and me as its director,” Mora denounced, according to La Prensa newspaper.

On several occasions during the last eight months, Channel 100% Noticias has been censored by the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Postal Services (Telcor, for its initials in Spanish). A week ago, Telcor ordered two cable companies to remove the channel from its programming grid in satellite signal.

A week before, on November 30th, Radio Mi Voz from León announced that it would temporarily close operations because of multiple police invasions of the radio station. Its director, Álvaro Montalván, who was arrested and beaten by policeman in the same context, said that the security of the radio’s staff made him make that decision.

Nowadays, the situation is so serious that RSF noted that several journalists have had to leave the country due to constant death threats and persecution, and warned about the possibility that more journalists should follow the same path.

Back in April, the journalist from Bluefields, Ángel Eduardo Gahona, was shot and killed while broadcasting on Facebook Live about an anti-government demonstration. Although Brandon Lovo, 18, and Glen Slate, 21, were found guilty of the crime, both their relatives and Gahona’s family point out that the real murderer remains unpunished.

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) strongly condemns the violations of freedom of the press and freedom of expression that the government of Nicaragua has committed against independent media, media directors, and journalists who expose the complaints of Nicaraguans victims of State repression through their news programs and articles.

Intimidations, persecutions, unjustified temporary detentions, and invasion of media buildings without a judicial order expose the will of the Ortega Murillo regime to break and violate the legitimate liberties and rights that the country’s constitution grants to men and women of the press. We demand that the Nicaraguan authorities completely cease repression against independent press.

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