International journalists condemn growing attacks on press freedom in Nicaragua

From Mexico to the United States, France to Slovenia, Australia to Zambia, 244 international journalists signed a letter addressed to the president of Nicaragua expressing concern about the growing deterioration of press freedom in that country.

“We are journalists and press freedom advocates from Latin America and around the world who view recent developments in your country with deep concern,” they wrote in a document sent to President Daniel Ortega and Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo.

In the letter, posted on the site of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), media professionals expressed "alarm over the recent escalation of aggression against media outlets and journalists covering civil unrest and documenting human rights abuses by police and paramilitary groups.”

The journalists condemned the recent police raids on the newsrooms of independent news outlets Confidencial, on Dec. 13, and 100% Noticias, on the night of Dec. 21.

They also rejected the arrest of Miguel Mora, owner and director of 100% Noticias, and news director Lucía Pineda. The two journalists have been held incommunicado for more than two weeks, accused of "fomenting and inciting hate and violence" and "provocation, proposition and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts."

According to the letter, the government has not presented any evidence supporting the allegations against the journalists. Mora and Pineda “took a lead role in their channel’s critical reporting over the last eight months,” the letter said. The channel was forced out of the air after the police invasion and the arrest of the journalists.

Days before the arrest, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures to protect Mora and journalist Leticia Hernandez's lives and physical integrity, believing that journalists were at risk due to threats, persecution and harassment due to their journalistic work.

The attacks on the Nicaraguan press grew after a wave of protests swept the country starting in April 2018 due to pension reforms proposed by the Ortega government.

At the time, several news channels reported being targeted and censored with signal interruption during the broadcast of coverage of protests.

In just six months, 420 cases of violations of press freedom were recorded in Nicaragua between April and October 2018, according to a report by the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH).

Journalists from all over Latin America signed the letter – some of them also facing recent threats. Others have been targets of similar attacks in the past or have spoken out against attacks on journalists.

Among the signatories are Alma Guillermoprieto, journalist and writer of Mexico; Carlos Dada, director of El Faro, El Salvador; Carmen Aristegui, Mexican journalist; and Joseph Poliszuk, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Armando.info, in Venezuela.

“We call on you to respect international guarantees for freedom of expression and to cease harassing the independent press,” the journalists wrote. “A free and independent media is vital to the functioning of a healthy democratic society, in Nicaragua and throughout the Americas.”

*Editor’s note: Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, also signed this letter to President Ortega and Vice President Murillo.

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