Public Communiqué: Race & Equality Rejects Acts of Harassment and Intimidation against Journalist Sergio León, General Manager of Nicaragua’s La Costeñísima

Washington, DC. October 23. 2018 – The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race & Equality) forcefully rejects and condemns the acts of pursuit, repression, and harassment committed against journalist Sergio León, General Manager of La Costeñísima, who was arbitrarily detained by the National Police on 21 October 2018 in Bluefields, a city located on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

The incidents took place while the journalist and General Manager of La Costeñísima was driving his car on the streets of Bluefields after having been informed that an ostentatious heavily-armed police and anti-riot squad was deployed around the city, a situation which León decided to document, given it represented an unusual activity in that area.

While the journalist proceeded to make an audiovisual and photographic record of a caravan of police vehicles that were in the Colón sector of the Fátima neighborhood, the agents came to a halt, got out of their units in combat position and violently intercepted the journalist, alleging that the activity León was engaging in was not permitted, arguments that the latter questioned, by stating that no law exists prohibiting said activity as a journalist performing his professional work.

Immediately thereafter, the police officers asked [León] for documentation on the car, and even after finding that everything was in order, forced León to get out of his car and subjected him to an unusual inspection.  They then took him to a police station where he was detained for more than an hour and fined 320 córdobas (approximately US$10) without being provided any reason whatsoever.

In addition, after being released, the General Director of La Costeñísima discovered that one of his car tires had been dented by a punch and a steel nail, in a position such that when the car would start to move it would sink into the tire – an action that had also, according to the journalist’s denunciation, been committed against his daughter with the clear intention of threatening her life.

All of these incidents constitute clear violations of journalist Sergio León’s freedom of movement, expression, and the press.  In recent days, he participated in the 169th period of public hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by denouncing the systematic repression that has been pursued by the Ortega-Murillo regime, specifically against the media and independent journalists who oppose the dictatorial policies of the head of State and who, in their commitment to and performance of their work of providing information [to the public], have been subject to all types of acts of intimidation, persecution, harassment, and threats that infringe upon their fundamental rights.

Race & Equality demands that the Nicaraguan State cease the persecution and intimidation of independent journalists, and ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and the press are guaranteed.  Likewise, we ask that it take into account the recommendations made by representatives of the media and journalists in the last public hearing of the 169th period of sessions of the IACHR to guarantee the lives and physical integrity of the journalists who today stand accused and censored.  We call on the international community to document the acts of repression and censorship to which Nicaraguan journalists are subject to on a daily basis, as well as to redouble its efforts to ensure that peace, truth, and justice return to the country promptly.

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