Independent journalists, citizens, public servants and business leaders must join together to reveal what the regime is hiding.
By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – On Tuesday we celebrated International Journalists’ Day, a date that commemorates the life and death of Julius Fucik. The Czechoslovakian journalist, writer and critic, was imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo there in 1942. He was subsequently executed by the Nazis on September 8, 1943, in Berlin, Germany. His testimony, immortalized in the book Notes from the Gallows, was smuggled out of jail, page by page. The work was published for the first time in 1945.
In Confidencial, we celebrate Fucik’s example of courage and resistance. We also celebrate the legacy of the remarkable Nicaraguan journalist Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, who the Somoza dictatorship assassinated in 1978. His memory inspires us to keep alive the flame of press freedom as “the first of all the freedoms”.
We’re also heartened by the journalism that continues resisting the blows of Latin American dictatorships. Despite the assault of Chavism, new digital media outlets were born in Venezuela: Armando Info, Efecto Cocuyo, El Pitazo, Runrunes, and ProDaVinci. Cuba has a resilient independent press as well: El Estornudo, 14yMedio, Diario de Cuba, Periodismo de Barrio, and Havana Times.
Media outlets and journalists continue working under the eye of the new authoritarian regimes. The digital newspaper El Faro in El Salvador; Nexus magazine of Mexico; and the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo. These journalists have been under siege by Bukele, Lopez Obrador and Bolsonaro, respectively, in these times of pandemic.
A common vocation
In Nicaragua, journalism brings the risk of physical aggression, assault, spurious trials and harassment from police and paramilitary. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in El Salvador, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. We all share the vocation of exercising quality journalism, even against the tides of power.
Here at Confidencial, our editorial offices remain illegally occupied by the police, who seized them twenty months ago. The regime prohibits us from broadcasting our programs on television. In addition, we don’t have access to public information, as the law and the Constitution stipulate. Nonetheless, we continue holding power accountable. We maintain unaltered our commitment to give voice to the victims of the regime’s persecution and repression.
Since the April 2018 civic insurrection, the resistance of the Nicaraguan independent press has rested on our reporters’ courage. These have upheld their professional, ethical and political commitment to stick to the truth at all costs, without accepting censorship or self-censorship. Despite siege and persecution, journalism is winning the battle for truth against the official media’s machinery of propaganda and disinformation.
The independent press has continued to publish stories, testimonies and investigations illustrating the corruption of power and human rights violations. Most recently they turned their focus to the negligent management of the public health crisis. Their contributions are a thousand times more convincing than the implausible daily monologues of Vice President Rosario Murillo. Nonetheless, the official media outlets repeat these in unison, along with her words of hatred to justify the repressive violence.
The resistance of the press wouldn’t be possible without the support and the trust of our audiences. To them we owe our credibility as professional journalists. In April 2018, Nicaraguan citizens joined our journalists, adding their freedom of expression to the work of the reporters.
During the crisis, empowered citizens used their cellphones and social media to generate a flood of information and images. Without them, it would never have been possible to cover the civic insurrection in all its national dimension. That alliance between citizens and independent journalists is still needed today. As the regime attempts to impose at gunpoint its tale of “normalcy”, despite the violation of all our freedoms.
Thanks to public employees’ trust in the journalists, the independent press reveals much of what the regime tries to hide. They’ve revealed the true dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, the repression, corruption, and the disastrous authoritarian power after three years of national recession.
But other public and private sectors need to join in a national crusade for truth and transparency. We need to recover the full exercise of public liberties. We must bury that old, failed model. That alliance to seal private business deals at the cost of institutions and democracy. To do so, business leaders must demand transparency and full accountability from those in power.
Independent journalists, citizens, public servants and business leaders must join together to reveal what the regime hides, and to defeat secrecy and official lies. There can’t be normalcy in Nicaragua, nor elections, nor economic recovery while there are political prisoners and no public liberties. The first step in dismantling the police state is to reestablish the right to truth and access to public information.