Police forces occupy newsroom of Nicaraguan media outlet Confidencial

For the past four days, agents from the Directorate of Special Operations (DOP for its acronym in Spanish) of the National Police have occupied the building that houses the newsroom of Nicaraguan news outlet Confidencial, reporting program Esta Semana and interview show Esta Noche.

Since the night of Dec. 14 when the facilities were taken, a police bus arrives at the Confidencial offices every 24 hours to relieve the officers who stand guard with rifles, the media outlet denounced on its site.

On the morning of Dec. 15, editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro unsuccessfully attempted to reclaim the property, Confidencial reported. The police officers present did not give him any official explanation and told him to look for answers at DOP headquarters, the site reported.

When Chamorro went with a group of journalists and his wife Desirée Elizondo to the headquarters of the National Police of Nicaragua, in Managua, to continue his claim, he and his team received shoves, insults, beatings, kicks and hits with clubs from riot police, according to Confidencial.

After it happened, Chamorro denounced this new aggression against the independent press and said in a video posted on his site that they will continue to demand to the dictatorship the cessation of this illegal occupation of the newsroom of Esta Semana and Confidencial.

In addition, he alleged that “the government is committing an illegal act of seizure against the right to private property.”

One day before police took over the newsroom, on Dec. 13, a group of DOP officers raided the offices of the media outlet, destroying doors and furniture, and confiscating computers, equipment and documents.

This raid, according to Confidencial, took place within the framework of five NGOs being blocked by the National Assembly on the same day. The offices of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) were also raided on Dec. 13, according to El País.

Chamorro, who clarified that the private media he leads are not related to the organizations blocked by the government, described the raid on his offices as a deliberate attack against the independent press and announced that he will take his case to the Supreme Court.

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Edison Lanza, told the Knight Center that there is a situation of extreme alarm and concern over the situation of persecution that the Nicaraguan government has unleashed against media and journalists.

"Nicaragua remains responsible under international law with respect to the American Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to guarantee and safeguard freedom of expression and to persecute those who precisely attack journalists," Lanza said.

Lanza added that it already looks like a kind of "science fiction" for a government to directly attack dissidents, protesters and journalists. "It is our duty to reiterate it, they are indefeasible crimes and should be pursued now or in the future, but in particular, the minimum that could be asked now of the government is to cease the harassment and persecution of journalists, restore freedom of expression and progressively return to democracy," he said.

The Association of Journalists of Nicaragua (APN) strongly condemned the confiscation of the goods of Esta Semana, Esta Noche and Confidencial, according to the site 100% Noticias. "These actions are the true face of the Orteguista socialist project that tries to submit citizen rights to the caprice of the new paramilitary dictatorship," the APN said.

In a press release, members of the Board of Directors and of the Governing Council of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism (FNPI), repudiated the acts of vandalism and intimidation against Confidencial. They also condemned the physical aggression against Chamorro and his team and his wife Desirée Elizondo by the riot police.

The FNPI urged Ortega and his wife to rectify these actions immediately, with a public condemnation of the police actions, the return of the facilities where the media operate and of their equipment and confiscated assets. There must also be, the organization said, a public apology by the authorities to Chamorro, whom they described as one of the most prominent journalists in the Americas.

"We are grateful for all the messages and expressions of national and international solidarity that we have received in the face of this aggression that is not only against us, against the team of journalists of Confidencial and Esta Semana, and against the country’s independent press, but it is also an aggression against citizens who are the custodians of the constitutional right of freedom of expression," Chamorro said.

"This is an attack on the right of citizens to express their opinions, it is an attack on their right to criticize the government, to denounce crimes and corruption and to continue demanding the resignation of President Ortega and Vice President Murillo, because they are not authorized to govern Nicaragua. We as journalists reiterate that we will not abandon our commitment to the truth. We will never accept censorship and self-censorship," he concluded.