Nicaraguan magazine accuses the Army and Sandinista party of spying on and harassing its journalists

Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of Nicaraguan magazine Confidencial, said his country’s Army is spying on his publication and employees.

On Oct. 7, Chamorro made a public complaint before the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH for its acronym in Spanish), claiming that an Army official and political operatives of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) asked two employees to provide them information about the magazine, according to Confidencial. This reportedly included information about how the newspaper functioned and information security.

The employees – one working in management and the other in the technical area of the magazine – were approached separately in late September, the magazine reported.

A man told the management employee that the magazine “was causing damage to the activities of the FSLN in the election campaign.” The FSLN is the political party of President Daniel Ortega.

“In an act of great civic courage and integrity, the two workers from Confidencial flatly rejected the claim of the state agents to submit to intimidation, and refused to provide the required information through illegal and immoral means,” Chamorro said, according to the magazine.

The magazine reported that, according to Vilma Núñez, president of the CENIDH, the alleged actions violate human rights and freedom of expression.

In a statement Chamorro made to the CENIDH, he said that in recent years, “the newsroom of Confidencial and Esta Semana has been the object of an escalation of intimidation instigated by official policy that seeks to restrict freedoms of information and expression in Nicaragua.”

He cited “campaigns to discredit journalists through official and unofficial media, physical attacks, direct and indirect threats, intimidation by the State through legal methods, systematic blocking of access to information, retaliation against journalists’ relatives who work in the public sector and illegal espionage.”

The director said attacks against the journalists are “also against the constitutional rights of citizens to freely distribute and obtain information.”

Chamorro said the testimonies of the employees, which were kept anonymous, are a guarantee against any reprisal.

The director previously talked to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas about the lack of access to information in Nicaragua and concentration of official advertising “in the private media owned by the presidential family.”

Concentration of media outlets owned by the presidential family or businesspeople aligned with the government is also an issue, according to a report on Central American media by the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, Fundación Comunicándonos and Semanario Voces.

Chamorro noted that despite the limitations, a small number of independent media outlets continue to function in the country and produce quality investigations.

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.