Daniel Ortega Smothers The Press

Daniel Ortega Smothers The Press

By Julieta Pelcastre / Diálogo
November 15, 2019

Aggressions against the Nicaraguan media increase. 

On October 6, El Azote, the political satire supplement of La Prensa, Nicaragua’s oldest newspaper, announced its closure after 25 years in operation. Only 10 days earlier, El Nuevo Diario, the country’s second largest daily, ended its digital and print editions. Since 2018, both media had been denouncing a government-imposed customs blockade that prevented them — without legal or administrative grounds — from importing paper and other supplies to print their editions.

“Journalists and independent media in Nicaragua face difficult situations to exercise freedom of expression and document the crisis of human rights violations in the country,” said to Diálogo Guillermo Medrano, human rights coordinator of the Nicaraguan nongovernmental organization (NGO)  Fundación Violeta B. de Chamorro. “There are burned, closed, and confiscated media; exiled, defamed, persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and threatened journalists by the Sandinista regime.”

“The upsurge in the level of physical aggression and the inability of Nicaraguan citizens to express themselves through news media is worrisome,” said to Diálogo Balbina Flores, representative in Mexico for French NGO Reporters Without Borders. “Daniel Ortega is afraid that the serious socio-political crisis the county faces will be reported, investigated, and exhibited.”

A shot of the front entrance of television station 100% Noticias, taken December 28, 2018, one day after the police raided the facilities and jailed station director Miguel Mora and several of his contributors. (Photo: Maynor Valenzuela / AFP)

Various methods are used to control journalists. More and more media report harassment for taxes, labor inspections, and import restrictions on raw material and equipment.

“No one can take our freedom because it’s such an intrinsic part of the human being and indispensable in our lives. It’s possible — and it’s the delight of dictatorships — to coerce or subdue people, but only for a certain period of time,” said the final edition of El Azote.

Government repression forced several television and radio programs to shut down, while the police continues to occupy the facilities of TV channel 100% Noticias. The government told the press that this media’s transmissions were biased and promoted violence and hate.

“The repressive policies of Ortega’s totalitarian regime also forced newspapers Metro and Q’Hubo to shut down,” said Medrano. “Although Ortega smothers traditional media, more than 25 independent alternative media that use digital platforms have emerged; 18 of those report from exile. Harassment forced at least 91 journalists to leave the country to protect their lives.”

“We must defend freedom of the press through alliances with other journalists, media, and international organizations. When democracy starts to deteriorate in a country, the first thing to be violated is freedom of expression,” Flores concluded.