Nicaragua’s Press Resists 4 Years of Ortega’s Censorship

Vigil to demand justice for the murder of journalist Angel Gahona, in April 2018.   File Photo: Confidencial

From April 2018 to date, the regime is committed to silencing any dissenting voices. These are the main attacks directed against freedom of the press and freedom and of expression.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo deprives Nicaraguans of the full exercise of press freedoms and freedom of expression, by closing media outlets, political persecution, threats, harassment, approval of repressive laws, criminalization, and imprisonment. Confidencial brings together the main events of censorship from 2018 to date.

Mobs attac the first civic protest

On April 18, 2018, in Leon, the Government gave the order to attack the first civic protest against the Social Security reforms that were not consulted. Sandinista Front shock forces beat elderly people. Mobs also attacked protesters and journalists during the protest in the Camino de Oriente sector in Managua.

The first killed

On the second day of protests, the police lead the repression with tear gas, blanks and firearms. In the UPOLI and Tipitapa sectors, the first three people are killed. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recorded 355 dead between April 2018 and July 2019.

Censorship to 100% Noticias and television channels

On the second day of protests, TELCOR temporarily suspended four television channels: 100% Noticias, Channel 12, Channel 23 and Channel 51 (of the Episcopal Conference) so that they wouldn’t report the repression. Miguel Mora, of 100% Noticias, was warned: “If you don’t take the foot off the pedal on news coverage,” there will be consequences. In November, the channel was removed from the cable grid.

Rosario Murillo’s hate discourse

Vice President Rosario Murillo unleashed a series of insults against demonstrators in an attempt to minimize them. She called them: tiny, vandals, coup plotters, insignificant, dregs, fungi and bacteria. Sustaining that narrative, in the following months she blamed them for “terrorist acts” and a “failed attempt at a coup d’état.”

Paramilitaries raid and destroy Radio Dario, in Leon

In April, a mob of hooded men sent by the Sandinista Front set fire to Radio Dario, the most important local radio station in Leon. Two of the attackers, who had received 500 cordobas (just under US $20) to set fire to the radio station, were killed in the incident. The station’s journalists went underground or into exile.

The murder of Angel Gahona in Bluefields

On April 21, in Bluefields, journalist Angel Gahona was shot in the head and killed while broadcasting live on the protests. The government prosecuted and convicted two innocent young Creoles, who were later released from prison. Four years later, his assassination continues in impunity.

Social networks’ war

After the beginning of the protests, social networks were used to record and denounce the repression. The regime intended to win “the war of social networks,” fabricating smear and threatening campaigns. And on the other hand, to highlight publications of approval and support for Ortega and Murillo.

Reporters assaulted, beaten, and injured

While covering the protests, journalists were assaulted, beaten, and injured by Sandinista mobs and National Police officers. The attacks occur despite their identifying themselves as national or international press. More than 1,200 attacks against press freedom are documented since 2018.

The last march and protest ban

On September 23, 2018, a civic protest was held for the release of political prisoners. Police and paramilitaries shot at the protestors and assassinated the young student, Matt Romero. Five days later, on September 28, the Police declared all protest marches “illegal,” imposing a de facto police state which has remained to this day.

Police prohibition of marches and express pickets

Between October 2018 and July 2019, the Police banned eight marches using the same excuses: “they are coup plotters,” “they are road blockers.” The “NO” went to businessmen, feminists, human rights defenders, opposition platforms and students. Faced with the prohibition, “express pickets” are organized that are also repressed.

Assault on Confidencial and 100% Noticias

Between the night of December 13 and the morning of December 14, 2018, the Police ransacked and occupied the newsroom of Confidencial. The aggression was repeated seven days later against the television channel 100% Noticias, and the illegal arrest of journalists Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau.

Television censorship against Esta Semana and Esta Noche

In January 2019, Telcor ordered Channel 12 not to broadcast the programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche, of journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and the program Danilo Lacayo En Vivo, of this television host. TELCOR’s censorship also later reached Radio Corporacion, and they also took the program Onda Local off the air.

The de facto police state

The regime imposes police surveillance at the main potential protests points in Managua to prevent any demonstration. Riot police remain on guard day and night and also patrol the streets. The population protests from universities and business buildings or launches blue and white balloons.

Censorship and layoffs amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

The Ministry of Health (MINSA) centralizes information on Covid-19. Doctors who demand personal protective equipment and point out mishandling of the pandemic were fired. Between June and August of 2020, 31 health workers were fired, according to independent reports.

MINSA hides Covid-19 deaths

The regime denies the impact of Covid-19 and freezes the number of deaths per week at the national level at one, hiding more than 14,000 deaths in two years of pandemic. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) declared that official figures are not reliable, and therefore they cannot make an “exhaustive assessment” on the handling of the pandemic in Nicaragua.

Approval of the “Gag Law”

On October 27, 2020, the National Assembly approves the Special Law on Cybercrimes or “Gag Law,” which aims to regulate internet’ content and silence voices critical of the regime. It also approved the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents, which blocks funding to civil society.

Making official the confiscation of Confidencial and 100% Noticias

In February 2021, the Ortega-Murillo regime completed the confiscation of Confidencial and 100% Noticias by illegally transferring the property to the Ministry of Health, to turn them into alleged maternity homes and rehabilitation centers that are guarded by National Police officers.

Second raid against Confidencial

On the morning of May 20, 2021, officers sent by the Ortega regime raided a temporary television studio where the programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche were being produced, in Invercasa. During the assault, cameraman Leonel Gutiérrez was detained and interrogated for more than seven hours.

Political process against the FVBCH

In May 2021, the regime opened a political case against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, in order to apprehend presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro Barrios. It also imprisoned three former employees: Walter Gomez, Marcos Fletes and Pedro Vasquez and former board member Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, all now convicted of alleged money laundering in bogus trials. Dozens of journalists were interrogated to investigate how they work, and some were threatened with imprisonment.

Judicial persecution and criminalization

In June 2021, the Prosecutor’s Office begins to summon more than 60 journalists and media representatives under the pretext of investigating their links to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, but in reality, to interrogate them about how they work and threaten them. Dozens left into exile for fear of being arrested.

Political prisoners accused for tweets and retweets

The regime uses comments on social networks and media interviews as evidence to judge and convict dozens of political prisoners imprisoned between May and November 2021, during a new political witch hunt that raised to more than 170 the number of prisoners of conscience in Nicaragua.

Threats against doctors

On July 22, 2021, the regime-controlled Ministry of Health (MINSA) summons doctors who inform on the Covid-19 pandemic and threatens them with cancellation of their licenses. It also mentions the “Gag Law” to them. Those doctors opt for self-censorship, anonymity, or exile.

Criminalization against independent sources and voices

Between June and November 2021, during a new political onslaught by the regime, political analysts and lawyers are arrested for giving interviews to independent journalists. Among those convicted on fabricated charges are political scientist Jose Antonio Peraza, former ambassador Edgard Parrales and lawyer Maria Oviedo.

Police raid and closure of newspaper La Prensa

On August 13, 2021, the police raided and illegally occupied the facilities of the newspaper La Prensa, the oldest in the country, with 95 years of history. It also arrested its General Manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, convicted months later for the fabricated crimes of money laundering and tax fraud.

Meta dismantles pro-government trolley farm

META, the company that owns Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatApp, dismantled a pro-Ortega “troll farm” and eliminates 1,440 fake accounts and 34 groups operated by the FSLN to manipulate public debate. Twitter and YouTube also purge their platforms of bots and government trolls.

Condemned by “Gag Law”

Fourteen months after the approval of the “Gag Law,” the regime uses it to sentence the first Nicaraguan (Donald Margarito Alvarenga) to twelve years in prison. As of March 2022, about ten people have been convicted under this law, including citizens who did not even have social networks or smart phones.

Imprisoned and convicted journalists

Today, the regime holds more than 180 political prisoners, among them several linked to journalism. Cristiana Chamorro and Miguel Mora, both journalists and presidential candidates, were part of the board of directors of La Prensa and 100% Noticias. Also, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, columnist and board member of La Prensa, and the newspaper’s general manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, sports writer and blogger Miguel Mendoza and political commentator Jaime Arellano.



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