New escalation of repression against the media

25 May 2021

Police raid the offices of Confidencial. Image: Confidencial.ni

Offices of Confidencial, Esta semana and Esta noche raided

On Thursday 20 May 2021, Daniel Ortega’s government ordered a new police raid and search, without a warrant, of the offices of the digital publication Confidencial and the recording studio of the television show Esta Semana and Esta Noche, media managed by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, in an action similar to the one carried out in December 2018.

The police prevented journalists who had arrived on the scene to cover the events. They temporarily detained and seized Agence France Presse (AFP) photographer Luis Sequeira, who was stripped of his mobile phone and had the footage he had filmed at the scene deleted. Confidencial photographer Leonel Gutiérrezwas also detained and held for almost seven hours.

It should be noted that Chamorro’s new offices are located in a commercial building that rents offices to companies and institutions, whose employees were prevented by the police from leaving or entering during the hours of the raid, violating their right to freedom of movement. The journalist denounced thatthe police swept away with everything in his offices: documents, computers, master control and filming equipment.

“They stole everything, they left us an empty office, completely ransacked, guarded by three armed policemen. But they didn’t shut us up and here we continue to demonstrate that they will never be able to confiscate journalism,” said Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Read our position of 20 May 2021: Human rights organisations demand an end to repression against critical voices and journalists in Nicaragua.

Public Prosecutor’s Office opens investigation against journalist Cristiana Chamorro

On 20 May 2021, on the same day and at the same time as the raid on the three independent media, the government announced an investigation for alleged money laundering against journalist Cristiana Chamorro, sister of Carlos Fernando, who until last January directed the Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (FVBCH), an NGO founded in 1997, dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and supporting independent media.

Cristiana Chamorro aspires to run as an opposition candidate in the elections scheduled for 7 November. She is the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios (1990-1997), who defeated Ortega at the polls for the first time in 1990, and journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor of the newspaper La Prensa, who was assassinated in 1978 by alleged assassins of dictator Anastasio Somoza.

The journalist was summoned twice in less than 30 hours(to the Ministry of the Interior and the Public Prosecutor’s Office). There she assured that the financial operations of the FVCH are transparent and accused the government of setting up a “macabre” plot and a “legal monstrosity” to prevent her nomination for the presidency.“Ortega is terrified”of being defeated again in elections, Chamorro said. The deadline for the registration of presidential candidacies expires on 2 August, so Cristiana Chamorro could miss if she is still under investigation.

Media offensive against the independent press

Following the lawsuits and the raid on media premises on 21, 22 and 23 May 2021, anonymous videos circulated widely on social networks and in various publications, accusing the Chamorro Barrios brothers and directors of independent digital media ofreceiving fundingfrom abroad to “destabilise” the government. The allegations involve well-known journalists, including Miguel Mora, former director of the channel 100% Noticias (closed and confiscated in 2018 but operating as a digital media); Álvaro Navarro, director of Artículo 66; David Quintana, director of Boletín Ecológico, and Jennifer Ortiz, director of Nicaragua Investiga. All of them work from Nicaragua. Exiled journalists in the United States and Costa Rica, such as Luis Galeano, director of the digital TV show Café con Voz, which broadcasts from Miami, are also implicated in alleged illicit activities.

As a result, journalists warned of this new escalation of repression and disinformation, which seeks to silence the independent press in order to impose censorship on the electoral process and prevent obstacles to Ortega’s intentions of winning a third re-election and starting a new presidential term in January 2022, which would be his fifth term since 1985 (and his fourth in succession).

Translation: Verónica Maza Bustamante

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