Independent media in Nicaragua need technical resources, an international forum and greater visibility in the international press to guarantee the continuity of their work and to attract the attention of the world to the critical situation that journalists are experiencing in the country.
These were ideas from panelists of the webinar "Nicaraguan Journalism versus Repression," organized by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) on Dec. 12. Tanya Amador, activist; Aníbal Toruño, director of Radio Darío; and Horacio Ruiz and Ricardo Trotti, representatives of the IAPA, participated.
The online panel was organized as a result of the recent escalation in the level of repression and harassment against the independent media by the regime of President Daniel Ortega, in order to propose possible solutions to the situation of freedom of expression.
Amador said that it is necessary for the media outside of Nicaragua to give more space to the crisis and proposed strengthening the link between Nicaraguan citizens and journalists with media from other countries to share information on what is happening in the Central American country.
"We should be reminding them that there is already a (journalist) dead in Nicaragua. We have to escalate the tone, we can not remain calm in what we are talking about," Amador said during the webinar. "We really have to raise the tone to a tone of rescue. It has to be repeated in front of international media so that they understand the level of repression."
The activist, founder of the humanitarian organization Corner of Love, stressed that it is necessary to create a plan to provide independent media equipment such as cell phones, computers and other essential devices to carry out their work. According to news reports, authorities frequently commandeer equipment when they detain people or journalists, or when they raid media outlets, as happened with Radio Darío on Dec. 3, when a group commanded by the police chief of the city of León burst in. Four employees were detained and electronic equipment was confiscated, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Part of the station was previously burned by pro-government mobs in April and the team had to move to another building, CPJ added.
Amador said that the visibility of the Nicaraguan crisis in other countries has also been affected because the participation of citizens who previously went out to the protests documented the abuses and put them on the Internet decreased.
"That participation made all those marches successful. Now the repression is so high that people at this time are not participating as they were before," the activist said. "We have to be creative in how to help them to be able to share information with (international) media.”
Toruño, who has been exiled for more than two months as a result of the attacks on Radio Darío which, he said, continue to go unpunished, suggested the idea of creating an alarm platform in which to report cases of violence, harassment or repression against media, and in which all the material of journalists and citizens who document the abuses is entered.
"The world really always reacts relatively slowly versus the events that are happening and I think it's a dynamic that we have to try to modify," Toruño said. "What needs to be done probably could be to create an S.O.S. platform with everything that is happening at the level of the press, radio, TV and all the internet media, in such a way that we can quickly and efficiently enter what is happening."
Another of the ideas from the webinar was to organize an international forum in a U.S. city with representatives from media, journalists and members of international organizations to find possible solutions and support for the Nicaraguan press.
Toruño was forceful in saying that there is a real possibility that Daniel Ortega's government will manage to completely silence the independent media, which is evident with increasingly radical attacks.
"We must ensure that we are not left without media outlets," he said. "We could face the possibility of being left without media outlets, and that requires urgent action to see the alternative of having media that are not within reach of Daniel Ortega to silence them and close them."
The Violeta B. Chamorro Foundation documented 77 violations of freedom of expression between Oct. 20 and Dec. 3 in Nicaragua, including the raid on Radio Darío and the series of judicial suits against the director of 100% Noticias, Miguel Mora .
"We have seen and felt in our own hands what is happening with independent journalism in Nicaragua, the way in which it is persecuted, harassed, insulted; the ways in which freedom of the press is being attacked,” said Ricardo Trotti, executive director of the IAPA. "This is not new, what is new is that the problem of violence has increased since April, from those famous public protests.”