Manager of Canal 10 in Nicaragua seeks refuge in Honduran embassy amid allegations of persecution against the channel

News that Carlos Pastora, general manager of Canal 10 of Nicaragua, sought refuge in the Honduran embassy in Managua awoke rumors of alleged persecution by the government of Daniel Ortega against the channel.

We have received Mr. Carlos Pastora with a request for protection from our diplomatic mission in Nicaragua,” Honduran chancellor María Dolores Agüero confirmed to Honduran media on Aug. 23, according to EFE.

Pastora's decision was allegedly made after Aug. 21, when he was about to travel to Miami on business and immigration agents denied his departure stating that he had an immigration restriction, La Prensa reported.

Pastora, who also has Honduran nationality, sought help from the country out of fear he was in danger, as he announced on Aug. 23. In a letter sent by Pastora to the National Commissioner for Human Rights of Honduras, Roberto Herrera Cáceres, he asked for protection for himself and his family.

“My human rights are being violated by a government, and my family and I fear for our lives, denouncing that we could be killed, and calling on the authorities of my country, to help us immediately,” Pastora wrote in the letter that was read by presenters at Canal 10.

Pastora's statements have revived allegations that the Ortega government is persecuting Canal 10.

A report by Confidencial said that Acción 10, a news program on the channel with the biggest audience in the country, has covered the protests that have been carried out against the government since April, as well as the "brutal repression" of these civilian protests.

Due to this coverage, Canal 10 journalists have been harassed by alleged paramilitary groups, and their chief of information has also suffered harassment and threats, Confidencial reported.

The alleged persecution would have increased after Mexican businessman Ángel González refused to sell the channel to the government, according to Confidencial. González, who created his media empire in most Central American countries, controls half of a channel duopoly in Nicaragua alongside the presidential family– including children and business leaders close to the Ortega administration.

During this week, Channel 10 has faced different events that have led the media outlet and its journalists to suspect that the State wants to influence their work.

Last Monday, Aug. 20, Óscar Ortiz, head of information for the official Canal 8, arrived at the facilities of Canal 10, assuring that he would be in charge of the channel’s news program, La Prensa and Canal 10 reported. Although he said that he had been sent by Pastora, the workers removed him from the place and assured that they would not allow a change of editorial line at their media outlet, which the Canal 8 employee indicated would focus on social themes and no longer touch on political issues, according to Confidencial.

In a meeting with the workers, Pastora denied having changed the news program’s current head of information, Mauricio Madrigal, according to Confidencial. Madrigal also denied that the editorial line of the media outlet has been changed.

Given this event, a group of people carried out a sit-in outside of Canal 10 in a show of support with the slogan "the truth is not sold." Journalists have indicated out that most of them "are willing to resign" if the editorial line of the media outlet is changed or if the government buys it, according to what Jairo Castillo, a journalist from Canal 10 said in a publication on this channel. At the demonstration, a man on a motorcycle was seen taking pictures of the people who were at the sit-in.

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, the government announced that the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF, for its initials in Spanish) opened "a financial intelligence process" against Pastora, who, in addition to being the manager of Canal 10, is a partner of other companies, including Radio Televisión Nicaragüense SA and the company that owns Acción 10, Confidencial reported.

“The process of analysis revolves around alleged actions of money laundering, the cross-border transfer of assets obtained through resources of illicit origin,” according to the UAF statement published by Confidencial.

In his letter to the Commissioner of Human Rights of Honduras, Pastora noted that the Ortega administration seeks to “appropriate Canal 10 to censor independent voices.”

“They want to force me to hire a Canal 8 journalist to come see and regulate the news program’s publications. Due to this situation that has been accompanied by direct threats via telephone, monitoring and intimidation, my family and I made the decision to leave the country and seek security by returning to Honduras. Action that I was not allowed by the government [of] Mr. Ortega that has issued an immigration restriction against me without any basis,” Pastora wrote, according to what the presenters of Acción 10 read.

Agüero, the Honduran chancellor, said it was the first time that a person had requested protection in the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua, according to EFE.

“We have been in a process of gathering information to be able to have evidence, examine the delicate situation and to be able to determine a course of action,” she said, the news agency reported.

She also said that they would consult with the Honduran and Nicaraguan governments.

Since protests against the Ortega government began in April, media have been the victim of attacks, threats,theft of equipment and even accusations of links to terrorism.

The most serious case occurred in Bluefields, in eastern Nicaragua, when journalist Ángel Gahona was killed while covering a protest on Facebook Live on April 21. The journalist’s widow called the current trial against two young men accused of committing the crime a "mockery" because it is believed they are not the true culprits, reported EFE and La Prensa.

On Aug. 24, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) “continued to register intimidation, harassment and threats against journalists” in the country.