The Persecution of Nicaragua’s Radio “La Costenisima”

A rosary of harassment, threats and charges against the journalistic team of Radio “La Costenisima” since 2018

By Julio Estrada Galo  (La Prensa)

The “La Costenisima” radio team, together with its then director Sergio Leon (RIP), have faced harassment, smear campaigns and charges from supporters or workers of the Ortega regime. Photo: La Prensa / Courtesy

HAVANA TIMES – The initial hearing against the journalist and press chief of Radio “La Costenisima”, Kalua Yakari Salazar, scheduled for last Friday, was rescheduled for Wednesday, August 19, the journalist reported. The change was made at the request of her defense lawyer who had to attend another case in the Bluefields Judicial Complex.

The journalist is being accused of the crime of slander, accusation made by Julia Elena Zeledon Siu, Shamia del Socorro Ruiz and Cinia Griselda Centeno, workers at the El Rama City Hall, in the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean Coast (RACCS). They are accused of having broadcast an anonymous voice narrating the embezzlement of around 300,000 cordobas (approx.$9,000 USD) of the City’s tax revenue..

This summons against Salazar is added to a wave of attacks and threats by the police authorities and supporters of Daniel Ortega. The regime has had it out for La Costenisima, a radio station that has denounced abuses and crimes even more since the 2018 upraising. According to Kalua Salazar, the accusation against her is part of a campaign by the government to censor and close the station.

Here is a list of the most significant attacks and threats that “La Costenisima” has suffered since 2018:

June 24, 2018: The smear campaign against Bluefields independent journalists begins, including Sergio Leon Corea, director of Radio La Costenisima. The attacks lasted until his death on July 14, 2020 from Covid-19 symptoms. They are accused from social media profiles of being responsible for the murder of journalist Angel Gahona during the start of the protests against the government. Gahona was killed by a gunshot to the head while covering the 2018 protests in Bluefields.

Furthermore, Leon was accused of fomenting the violence unleashed by the repression of the protests. They also accuse La Costenisima of calling the population of Bluefields to hold pickets and demonstrations against the dictatorship.

July 31, 2018: The then director of La Costenisima publicly denounces having received death threats from unknown persons, the threats included his children. Sergio Leon argued that the intimidating messages were for conducting an independent radio newscast, where he opened the microphones to people who questioned the government.

March 1, 2019: While commemorating National Journalist’s Day in Nicaragua, police officers surrounded the radio station for more than 40 minutes without any justification, keeping La Costenisima workers locked in their own workplace.

March 16, 2019: After the announcement of a national march against the government, several police patrols were posted in front of the La Costenisima facilities on that day.

April 10, 2019: Graffiti with messages used by Ortega fanatics against opponents appear on the façade of the facilities of the Caribbean station. “Traitor,” “You could not and never will” and “JS” (Sandinista Youth) were part of the graffiti left on the walls. “Just as the radio station appeared in the morning, the same happened in my house,” Sergio Leon denounced on that occasion. Eight days later, on April 18 of that same year, the graffiti returned to the façade of La Costenisima, as an intimidating act.

October 1, 2019: The station’s editorial writer, Carlos Eddy Monterrey, reported having received death threats against him and his family from some Ortega fanatics. That day the editorial writer was verbally attacked by an individual identified as Agustin Soza, a sympathizer of the FSLN.

The reason for the attacks and threats, according to Monterrey, were because “we rely on facts to make comments. He said that has caused threats, harassment, calls to intimidate, leaving leaflets around the house and things like that.” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures for Monterrey on May 15, 2020, considering that he is at risk in Nicaragua.

December 28, 2019: Wilfredo Jarquin, regional delegate of the Ministry of the Interior (MINGOB) in Bluefields, pointed out Sergio Leon as the one who caused the death of Creole leader Denry Hodgson, an Ortega supporter who was shot dead. Leon was directly accused of promoting hatred and violence through the radio.

“Sergio Leon, I think that you should take precautions. This is what you have provoked with your messages on the radio through your journalists and Eddy Monterrey who only promotes hatred and violence in families,” said the MINGOB delegate on that occasion. This, despite the fact that the Police later published a statement in which it did not explain what motivated the crime against Hodgson.

May 28, 2020: The director of La Costenisima is summoned by the Judiciary to respond to a complaint of libel and slander. His “crime” was denouncing the anomalies committed by the health system during the new coronavirus pandemic.  The accusations on that day are similar to those today in the case with press chief Kalua Salazar.  

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