Nicaragua records 61 cases of violence against journalists between December 2019 and February 2020

Between December 16 of last year and February 29 of this year, 61 cases of violence against journalists were documented. In all, 53 journalists were victims of violence, some more than once.

Just over 400 crimes against press freedom and access to information were recorded in the period, classified into 25 different types. These include cases of harassment, censorship, intimidation, physical and verbal abuse, damage to equipment, theft and three cases of sexual violence, among others.

This is according to a second report on attacks against journalists in Nicaragua from the Observatory for Freedom of Information and the Independent Press of Nicaragua presented on Monday, March 2.

The results of the survey were announced by journalists who are part of the observatory during a press conference in Managua, broadcast live by the organization on social networks. One of the most serious cases occurred on Feb. 25, while covering demonstrations called by the opposition to President Daniel Ortega's current government.

“Aggressions were recorded against 25 journalists from independent national and international media by agents of the special operations department of the police at the service of the current dictatorship and by civilians linked to the regime in the Metrocentro shopping center and in the Jesus of the Divine Misericordia church in Managua,” journalist Elsa Espinoza said, reading an excerpt from the group’s statement.

In power since 2006, Ortega is accused by opponents of leading an authoritarian regime and of repeated violations against journalists, the media and freedom of expression in the Central American country. Attacks against the independent press worsened with the emergence of massive protests against the Ortega government in April 2018.

The report also records that five journalists decided to report attacks to the public prosecutor’s office, with support from the observatory and the collective Defense Lawyers of the People. Another 20 journalists who were in exile decided to return to the country and have encountered several obstacles to the exercise of their profession, such as police harassment, direct threats from authorities and “fanatics” of the FSLN (Sandinista National liberation Front), the statement said.

“We demand that they comply with the political constitution that in articles 30, 66, 67 and 68 protects the sacred right of journalists to disseminate information and ideas and the right of citizens to be informed,” reads an excerpt of the statement recited by journalist Abigail Hernández. “We demand justice for journalist Ángel Gahona, murdered in April 2018 and whose crime remains in impunity. We also demand the cessation of the police occupation and the abusive confiscation of media outlets 100% Noticias, Confidencial and Esta Semana, which have been taken by military hand and by the authorities under the control of the dictatorship.”

The observatory was created by the Nicaragua Independent Journalists and Communicators (PCIN) group in October 2019 to document and report cases of violations of freedom of the press and expression, and access to information. The objective is to collect data for human rights organizations in the country and in the world.

Funeral attacks

The day after the report was released, five more journalists were attacked by supporters of Daniel Ortega's government while covering the funeral of the poet Ernesto Cardenal in the Cathedral of Managua, El País reported.

According to the newspaper, more than a hundred demonstrators wearing scarves in red and black, the same as the Sandinista Front, shouted slogans and accused the poet of being a "traitor."

A video from 100% Notícias shows the moment when a group surrounded the reporter Hans Lawrence, from the digital platform Nicaragua Investiga. In addition to being assaulted, his professional equipment was stolen. Lawrence was hospitalized after vomiting blood, but has already been discharged, reported El País and 100% Noticias.

The publication's director, Jeniffer Ortiz, condemned the attack and held Vice President Rosario Murillo responsible. "For being the person in charge of directing the government's communication programs (from Nicaragua) and also for being the person, a high-level public official, responsible for blazing and inciting hatred against the independent press," Ortiz said, according to the portal 100% Noticias.

The Nicaragua Investiga website also reported that journalists David Quintana, from the digital media outlet Boletín Ecológico, Leonor Álvarez, from the daily La Prensa, and a team from Artículo 66, suffered aggressions.

The Permanent Commission on Human Rights of Nicaragua expressed solidarity with the attacked journalists. The PCIN once again called for an end to the repression and criminalization of independent journalism.