Nicaragua: Two Years after the Occupation of Confidencial

Carlos F. Chamorro outside the Confidencial and Esta Semana offices, occupied by the National Police. Photo: Carlos Herrera.

Our occupied newsroom is in the minds and hearts of the reporters, and in the decision to not accept censorship or self-censorship.

By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Two years ago, at midnight on December 13, 2018, the Police at the service of the Ortega regime raided and looted the newsroom of Confidencial and Esta Semana, without a court order. A day later, the abuse continued with the permanent occupation of our offices by heavily armed Police. They have been there now for 24 months.

The raid and illegal occupation of Confidencial represents a triple aggression: against freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of enterprise. Rights that are protected in the Nicaraguan Constitution.

In January of last year, the Government also imposed a de facto censorship against Channel 12, 100% Noticias and cable television, to prevent the broadcasting of Esta Semana, Esta Noche, and other independent television programs, violating the right to freedom of broadcasting information.

This sequence of violent acts not only harms our individual rights as journalists. It also affects all citizens by denying them their constitutional right to receive information without conditions or restrictions.

We never stopped reporting

Despite this brutal repression, we never stopped informing with professional rigor, not for a single day. We resorted to social network platforms to defeat censorship, with the support of our audience. We consolidated the credibility of critical journalism, even in the midst of polarization. Our occupied newsroom continues to be in the minds and hearts of our reporters and in the determination to not submit to censorship and self-censorship or abandon our commitment to the truth.

In these two years of persecution, we exhausted all legal actions before the Public Ministry to investigate the robbery perpetrated by the Police. Likewise, before the Supreme Court, requesting the suspension of the occupation, without obtaining any response.

The Supreme Court admitted three Writs of Amparo, on behalf of the Invermedia-Confidencial, Promedia-Esta Semana and Cabal companies. However, since the beginning of 2019 they are awaiting a ruling in the Constitutional Chamber, having already violated its own deadlines to dispense justice.

Ortega never justified the assault

President Ortega, Supreme Chief of Police, never dared to explain why he ordered a media outlet be closed by force. The one who did try to justify the crime is the Chief of Police, Francisco Diaz, issuing a sort of official mea culpa.

In a report sent to the Supreme Court in February 2019, Diaz practically admitted that he had no legal authority to confiscate the companies of the media outlets Invermedia-Confidencial and Promedia-Esta Semana. In that official document, he argues that in December 2018 the Police received a request from the Ministry of the Interior to assist in the seizure of the assets of the non-governmental organization Communication Research Center (CINCO), which was stripped of its legal status on December 12, 2018.

However, what the Police did was not to intervene the NGO CINCO, but raid and occupy two media outlets and a third company, CABAL—an environmental services consultancy firm. All three registered in the Commercial Registry and with no relationship with the aforementioned NGO.

This confession should be enough for the Supreme Court to order the Police to suspend the occupation and return the seized properties. Moreover, for the State to accept its responsibility to compensate and repair the damages caused. But under the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, there is no justice. The magistrates are reduced to implementing political orders that emanate from authoritarian power.

After exhasuting all legal recourse in Nicaragua…

When all the means to obtain justice in Nicaragua were exhausted, we appealed through the Race and Equality Foundation before the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We filed a petition for the violation of rights established in the American Convention to the detriment of 39 journalists and workers from Confidencial and Esta Semana, and also the La Costenisima, 100% Noticias and Radio Dario media.

If the refusal of the Supreme Court is confirmed, the lawsuit against the State of Nicaragua will finally be brought before the Inter-American Court of Justice. And I am convinced that, sooner rather than later, justice will prevail for all victims of repression, including independent journalists.

Two years after the raid of Confidencial, we continue demanding the suspension of the police state, the release of all political prisoners, and the end of censorship and the persecution against independent journalism. Despite the physical occupation of our newsroom, they never silenced us. Nor will they be able, with the new “Gag Law” to prevent us from continuing to monitor the government, investigating and denouncing corruption.

A story of pain and hope

More than a year ago I returned from exile to continue telling the story that began to be written in April 2018: the departure from power of a bloody dictatorship by peaceful political means. A story of pain and hope, whose main protagonists are the self-organized citizens. The new Blue and White political majority continues to resist under siege, in jail or in exile. And here we are, doing journalism to regain freedom step by step, in this national crusade for truth, democracy and social justice, so that “Nicaragua becomes a Republic once again.”

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.