A statement from independent Nicaraguan journalists condemning lethal violence on protesters and attacks on the press, and urging respect for press freedom from the government, has garnered signatures from 35 media outlets, four civil society organizations, 87 journalists and counting.
The statement includes 10 points concerning “acts of repression” in the country that began on April 18, 2018 that “have left more than 46 dead, dozens injured and disappeared.” Protests erupted in the country following proposed pension reforms, but eventually developed into a rejection of the government of President Daniel Ortega. The pension reforms have been scrapped by the leader.
The signatories condemn the killings and urge investigation from an independent commission.
The journalists also condemn aggressions against the press, including the murder of journalist Ángel Gahona during a Facebook Live broadcast of the protests, an attack on Radio Darío, attacks against and robberies of journalists covering the protests, and “illegal censorship” by regulator Telcor against 100% Noticias, Canal 12, Telenorte and other media. They also called on Telcor and other government entities to function independently from interests of the country’s leader.
Two suspects have been formally charged in Gahona’s murder, but the journalist’s family and others have criticized the accusations and say it’s an effort to avoid accusing the real perpetrators. According to El Nuevo Diario, Gahona’s father said that the only people close to the journalist when he was killed were National Police officers.
The journalists who signed the statement call for the state and society to exercise zero tolerance toward aggressions against journalists and for the Ortega government to respect the rights to free thought and information. The journalists also reject defamation campaigns against journalists and say they hold the State responsible for any consequences.
They acknowledge the work of citizens that have spread information through social networks, in turn rejecting censorship.
They also confirmed a commitment as professional journalists “to ethical self-regulation, and the search for truth, spreading confirmed information based on a rigorous cross-checking of sources,” the statement said.
They call on the government to end secrecy with respect to state communication and public information and say distribution of state advertising should not be monopolized by media linked to the president’s family or allies.
“Throughout our history, the attainment of freedom of expression in Nicaragua has had a very high cost; murdered, exiled, imprisoned journalists, media that have been confiscated and targeted by heavy fines,” the statement read. “The coverage of protests are part of daily and unavoidable work for journalists of various media outlets. Nicaraguans have the right to know what is developing and sets the course for the nation.”
Directors and journalists from the following media outlets signed the statement:
Diario La Prensa
El Nuevo Diario
La trinchera de la Noticia
Radio Estereo Vos, Matagalpa
Radio La Costeñísima, Bluefieds
Radio Romance, Jinotepe
Radio Camoapa, Boaco
Radio Palabra de Mujer
Programa Café con Voz
Programa Danilo Lacayo en Vivo
Programa Onda Local
Programa Doble Play
Programa La Mesa Redonda
Tiempos de Negocios
Observatorio de Medios
Mosaico CSI, Matagalpa
Civil Society Organizations included:
Porter Novelli Comunicaciones
PEN : Periodistas y Escritores
Fundación Violeta B. de Chamorro
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.