New initiative aims to support, train independent journalists from Nicaragua

Independent journalism in Nicaragua is under attack by Daniel Ortega's regime. At least 223 Nicaraguan journalists have gone into exile since April 2018 in order to continue practicing the profession, but many of them lack editorial support.

To address this need, the Foundation for Freedom of Expression and Democracy (FLED, by its Spanish acronym) in October launched Sala de Edición, an initiative aimed at strengthening independent journalism in Nicaragua and the Central American region by providing editing and other editorial support and guidance. 

FLED is a civil organization, based in Central America, that promotes the strengthening of democracy and the defense of freedom of expression, information and press. Sala de Edición joins its portfolio of small projects aimed at helping improve journalistic quality.

"We believe that quality journalism is the best response that can be given to this adverse panorama. And editing is an important cog in this process of the search for higher quality," Octavio Enríquez, Nicaraguan journalist exiled in Costa Rica and coordinator of the Sala de Edición initiative, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR)

Among the services offered by Sala de Edición are mentoring, editorial support, advice on the conceptualization of stories, and the production of scripts for sound and audiovisual content. In addition, technical support will be provided for the preparation of questionnaires for journalistic interviews.

Independent news outlets and journalists inside or outside Nicaragua are eligible to participate. The initiative does not offer participants support in the areas of data verification, multimedia development or assistance to reporters in the field.

According to a press release sent by the Sala de Edición team, the initiative aims to "focus on improving the quality of journalistic content in order to forge a committed and ethical journalism with an inclusive approach to gender and human rights." 

Sala de Edición boasts a team of qualified and experienced editors, including Jennifer Ortiz, multimedia editor and specialist in audiovisual production; Julio López, multimedia editor, member of CONNECTASHub and specialist in sound production; Homero Hinojosa, multimedia editor, resilient and community journalism; and Wilfredo Miranda, editor of Divergentes, member of CONNECTASHub, and specialist in investigative and in-depth journalism. 

“In addition, Sala de Edición has two honorary members: Carlos Eduardo Huertas and Ana Lucía Duque, director and member of the editorial board of Connectas, respectively. It’s an honor for us to have their support," Enríquez said. 

Journalists interested in accessing these services can find application forms on the FLED website. Those chosen will subsequently be assigned to an editor who will guide them through the production process. An online library of useful information for journalists is also available on the website.


The importance of good editing


Journalistic editing is a sticking point in Latin America. In general, there is no training for editors in journalism schools or within the newsrooms themselves in Latin America, said interviewees for this story.

"What has always happened regarding editors is that they’re trained while working as reporters. Then, the best ones are chosen and promoted," Enríquez said. 

Sala de Edición is committed to working with editors who are, for the most part, graduates of the Connectas school of editors. These editors have diverse specialties such as radio journalism, audiovisual journalism, investigations, crónicas or gender. 

"Several of these Nicaraguan journalists have participated in our program. What we did was to mentor FLED in this process, so alumni can train new journalists. I think it’s an interesting model to create mentoring within organizations," Carlos Eduardo Huertas, director of Connectas, told LJR.

According to FLED, Sala de Edición came about as a support tool for independent journalists, working within an adverse context such as that of Nicaragua, where a total of 1,329 violations of press freedom were registered last year alone. 

"We believe editing is vital to provide a better service to the public, especially when in this case editors do not arrive at the end of the process, but rather add their knowledge and experience throughout the investigation. This helps not only to have better curatorship, but it also integrates all members: journalists, designers, editors. It's teamwork," Enríquez said.

"This combination of talent, responsible and ethical professional practice, together with a commitment to human rights, makes the project a necessary service. We, as editors, believe in journalism," he said.