PEN International Calls to Defend Free Press in Nicaragua

The La Prensa general manager Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro is being held incommunicado for interrogation and investigation. Photo: EFE

From 100% Noticias / EFE

HAVANA TIMES – The worldwide association of writers PEN International called for a global response in defense of “free expression and a free press in Nicaragua.” Their statement, issued on August 18, noted that over 30 journalists from that country have been summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor amid the electoral process. At least four of them have been jailed.

“We call on the international community to speak up in defense of press freedom and freedom of expression in Nicaragua, to condemn the ongoing violations of these rights, and to appeal for the restoration of conditions to allow free, fair and transparent elections to take place,” the organization posted on their website.

Nicaragua has been immersed in a political and social crisis since April 2018. This crisis has become more pronounced as the general elections draw nearer. In these elections, scheduled for November 7, current president Daniel Ortega is aspiring to a fifth presidential term, four of them consecutive. During the current term, his wife, Rosario Murillo has served as his vice president; she’s been renominated to continue in this role.

The PEN International statement mentioned the many journalists recently summoned to the Public Prosecutor’s office. “During questioning, officials have threatened journalists with potential prosecution under the Special Cybercrimes Law related to information they have published. These actions demonstrate a clear pattern of using the judicial system to threaten the press and critical voices.”

The organization’s call – which was extended to the Ortega government as well – emphasized the case of La Prensa. That newspaper was raided by the authorities on August 13, and its general manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, taken prisoner. Holmann is currently being held in arbitrary detention for 90 days, supposedly to investigate alleged “Customs fraud and money laundering.”

PEN noted that in Nicaragua at least 33 voices “critical of the government and political opposition leaders, are imprisoned, several of whom are currently being investigated for alleged treason under the catch-all Law 1055, the Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace.”

Among the detained journalists are Cristiana and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Barrios, who are siblings, plus Miguel Mora and Miguel Mendoza.  All are vocal critics of the government. In addition, Mora and Cristiana Chamorro had publicly expressed interest in becoming opposition candidates for the presidency. They were arrested shortly afterwards.

PEN extended its call to the Organization of American States, adding the need to “urge the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure the safety and protection of all those who exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, including any individuals who have been detained, charged or summoned to appear before judicial authorities.”

The statement further asked the UN Office off the High Commissioner for Human Rights to “reiterate their request that the Nicaraguan government allow their representatives to visit the country, in order to verify the current situation.” They called on all the multinational organizations to respond to the Nicaraguan crisis “in a coordinated manner.”

PEN demanded a “halt on all aggressive actions, harassment and prosecutions of independent media outlets and journalists,” as well of the liberation of the journalists and of over 150 “political prisoners who remain arbitrarily deprived of liberty.” They challenged the Nicaraguan government to “comply with its international commitments to guarantee the right of journalists to work freely and independently.”

PEN International was founded in London, Great Britain, in 1921. Their stated mission is to defend imprisoned writers and fight for human rights.  The organization’s members include over 40,000 writers in 140 countries. PEN maintained an office in Nicaragua for 21 years, until last February 2021, when they closed their doors, arguing that the new Foreign Agents Law” ran counter to its “ideals and ethics.”

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

One thought on “PEN International Calls to Defend Free Press in Nicaragua

  • PEN International is very late to this party. If you look at their web site, the lead story is about Julian Assange, and there’s nothing about Nicaragua on the front page.

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