Washington DC, May 3, 2022.- This May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day is commemorated; However, in Nicaragua, Confidencial, 100% Noticias and La Prensa are confiscated; Radio Darío lives under permanent siege by the police and journalists, commentators, media workers and collaborators of organizations that promote Freedom of the Press are arbitrarily in jail; the murder of the journalist Ángel Gahona continues in impunity; More than 100 journalists report from exile, and journalists who report from the field do so from underground due to reprisals.
For this reason, with the aim of denouncing the serious deterioration of Freedom of the Press in Nicaragua, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) spoke with three exiled Nicaraguan journalists about the patterns of repression against the press, their decision to exile, the challenges and opportunities of reporting from inside and outside the country, among other aspects. Below are their comments on the situation.
María Lilly Delgado: There is a new version of catacomb journalism
María Lilly Delgado is a Nicaraguan journalist with a long career in national and international media who, as a correspondent for the international network Univisión, covered the protests in April 2018. In May 2021, Delgado was summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office as a “witness.” for the alleged money laundering case of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. Later, when she requested the presence of a lawyer at the appointment, the authorities changed her status to “investigated” and applied immigration restrictions and “prohibited her from going out to public places and meetings.” She is currently exiled in the United States.
For Delgado, in Nicaragua, the press and independent journalists are persecuted for thinking and expressing themselves differently from the official narrative of the regime, for informing of the demand for justice of the relatives of the victims of state repression and the relatives of political prisoners. “The regime wants to annihilate or silence all dissident and critical voices,” she denounced.
“There is a new version of catacomb journalism through social media and the web,” she said, referring to the fact that, in the face of imminent danger, journalists operate anonymously and “practically clandestinely” within the country.
Regarding reporting from exile, Delgado considers that it represents “an enormous challenge” because the women and men of the press must not only reinvent themselves and expand, but they must also explore alliances, do collaborative journalism with the aim of continuing to raise the quality of journalistic content, seek sustainability; and additionally, guarantee the safety of those who report from within.
Despite the difficult times that Nicaraguan journalism is experiencing, the journalist believes that it is time to renew the commitment to the principles of journalistic ethics, such as truth and precision, independence, and humanity. “From wherever we are, let’s try to put our grain of sand in with this huge army of journalists who, from inside and outside of Nicaragua, claim their right to report on the human rights crisis,” he concluded.
José Denis Cruz: The regime does not want a critical press but one that is the loudspeaker of its speech
José Denis Cruz is a Nicaraguan journalist who is exiled in Spain. He worked at La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, two national newspapers that ceased circulation due to the repressive policy of the authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. He decided to go into exile in 2018, after covering social protests, exposing himself to beatings, bullets, and other attacks, and after concluding that “Nicaragua was no longer a safe country for journalists.” He currently works in a Spanish media of fact-checking and verification of false news.
For Cruz, exercising freedom of the press without suffering reprisals is difficult. Nicaraguan media and journalists have suffered siege, censorship, threats, forced exile, criminalization, and in the worst cases, murder. “That has been the cost that journalism has paid for exercising freedom of the press,” he lamented.
“The regime does not want a critical press but one that is the loudspeaker of its discourse, and independent journalism has been brave in challenging it. As journalists, like any society that wants change, we defend the values of freedom, justice, and democracy,” he said.
Regarding reporting from exile, Cruz considers that the media that have emerged from abroad are admirable, they were ahead of the times with new formats such as interviews through the ZOOM platform and virtual editorial meetings. The journalists manage to tell the news from new narratives such as podcasts and explainers. “There is a reinvention of journalism and for the first time we see media that are not linked to power groups”. However, he considers that the challenge of maintaining quality and finding a balance between mental health and media sustainability will always be present.
Finally, José Denis sends the following message to those who continue reporting from Nicaragua: “Be careful. We do not want more martyrs… We value your courage; without you we would not know how the country is doing”. For his colleagues in exile, he sends a message of resistance: “Let’s continue resisting and denouncing, from any space, the human rights violations committed by the regime.”
Carlos Eddy Monterrey: This regime is capable of anything, it is a repressive regime
Carlos Eddy Monterrey is a radio journalist who worked as a commentator for the news program “Tras La Noticia” on Radio La Costeñísima, the only independent media outlet in the city of Bluefields, in the South Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. In his radio program, Monterrey addressed the sociopolitical and economic crisis, regional autonomy, the weakening of institutions, among other topics of regional and local interest. As a result of this work, the journalist was verbally assaulted by a former Political Secretary of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and sympathizers of that party, he also suffered constant police harassment, threats, and smear campaigns. He is currently exiled.
For Monterrey, exercising freedom of the press is “the freedom to inform, to have access to information from State agencies and institutions without repression or censorship,” but this does not happen in Nicaragua, “the regime is challenging all international agreements,” he lamented.
The journalist shared that, despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) extended precautionary measures to him because his life and personal integrity are at risk and urgent, “this has definitely not been complied with by the Government, by the State.” Likewise, he regretted that people with precautionary measures from the IACHR have been imprisoned.
Regarding the challenges faced by journalists in exile, Monterrey lamented the economic difficulties, as well as the need to maintain a “low profile”, not identify themselves or avoid publishing for fear that the regime will take action against their relatives.
“We already know that this regime is capable of anything, it is a repressive, criminal regime and totally violates all the human, civil and political rights of all Nicaraguan citizens.”
On the other hand, he denounced that the journalists who continue to work from the field face constant harassment and threats from fanatics; but he also highlighted that they have a great capacity to “devise ways”, take security measures, and report through digital platforms. “That is the way in which the Nicaraguan population realizes what is happening.”
Finally, his call is to “continue resisting and informing a people eager for information and eager to know the truth of what is really happening, which is what the Ortega Murillo regime is trying to hide (…) that the truth be disclosed and that we be critical against all the atrocities and barbarities that they commit”.
On this day, Race and Equality stands in solidarity with Nicaraguan journalists who are inside and outside the country; as well as with media workers, press freedom defenders and their families. The continuity of their work is fundamental for the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua as well as for the victims and their families to have access to justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.
We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including journalists, media workers and organizations that defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press who have been unjustly convicted.
We urge the Government of Nicaragua to respect press freedom, providing conditions for journalists to carry out their work without facing police harassment, persecution, threats, prosecution, exile, and even death.
We demand the repeal of the Special Cybercrime Law, the Foreign Agents Regulation Law and other laws that have criminalized the exercise of freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to inform.