Independent journalists in Nicaragua report physical attacks, death threats and defamation campaigns on social media

As attacks against journalists in Nicaragua grow after months of protest, independent journalists in the country are calling for freedom to carry out their work. They are also expressing hope in the international organizations on the ground that are working to curb violence in the Central American nation.

Independent journalists in the country presented a series of demands and highlighted numerous attacks on the press in a statement presented during a press conference on June 28,

This is the second such statement released by independent journalists in Nicaragua since protests, first against proposed pension reforms and then more generally against President Daniel Ortega, began.

As the statement notes, when the journalists first spoke up on May 9, forty-six people had died, including journalist Ángel Gahona in Bluefields who was shot on April 21 while covering the protests.

“When we made that pronouncement, we never thought that 47 days later the violence of the dictatorship would have only increased and the deaths of Nicaraguans would have grown fivefold,” the statement said.

The letter highlights various incidents, including an attack at channel 100% Noticias, fires at official radio station Nueva Radio Ya and Radio Nicaragua, and continued death threats against Radio Darío owner Aníbal Toruño, his family and co-workers. The station was burned down in April after strangers sprayed gasoline inside the station and on the roof and fired a mortar at the facilities, La Prensa reported at the time.

On June 19, “news teams from 100% Noticias and Canal 12 were held at gunpoint with an AK, received death threats and had their press equipment and personal belongings taken,” according to the statement. The same morning, a team from La Prensa had to escape from shots fired by paramilitaries in the same area, the newspaper reported at the time.

Attacks are also happening via the internet.

Journalists from Bluefields, the place where journalist Ángel Gahona was killed, were identified last week on social networks as being the intellectual authors of his murder, the statement said.

One of the journalists, Ileana Lacayo, reported that after Gahona’s death, “she and colleagues were ‘persecuted’ by ‘civil and uniformed police,’ also they had ‘monitored the movements’ of their relatives,” according to Confidencial.

And independent journalists and press workers from La Prensa, Confidencial, Radio Universidad, Radio Camoapa, Corporación, Artículo 66, Canal 10 and others have been besieged and have received death threats at home and from fake profiles on social networks, the statement reported. Two communicators had to leave their homes after being harassed, according to the independent journalists.

“We reject every aggression – direct or indirect– against journalists of any media outlet and we demand from the State and society, a policy of zero tolerance in the face of aggressions against journalists,” the statement read.

The signatories also demanded Ortega respect the right to freedom of thought and of information. They rejected defamation campaigns against journalists and “held the State responsible for their consequences.”

The journalists placed hope in the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to clarify responsibility for violence carried out during the protests.

Additionally, the IACHR announced on June 25 that it launched a Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, for its acronym in Spanish) to monitor the situation of human rights in the country. This was a follow-up to the publication of the commission’s report, “Serious human rights violations in the context of social protests in Nicaragua.” According to the IACHR, journalists are some of the worst affected by repression in the country.

The statement from the journalists also expressed hope that the MESENI and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is collaborating with the IACHR, “can successfully compete their work of support to eliminate violence that the police and parapoliciales groups have unleashed.”

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