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More attacks on free expression in Nicaragua

April 27, 2022 (version in Spanish follows)

New attacks on press freedom, the forced banishment of Nicaraguan artists and the deportation of foreign journalists trying to enter the country marked the events of the last week in Nicaragua, where the government also ordered the surprise closure of the headquarters of the Organisation of American States (OAS), the expulsion of its officials and the confiscation of its building in Managua.

Vice President Rosario Murillo, Daniel Ortega’s wife, said that the building where the offices “of the deplorable OAS, the despicable OAS, were located, has been declared of public utility and will pass to the State of Nicaragua”, in order to build a “museum of infamy” on the site.

Journalists report new attack

At least 175 attacks on freedom of the press and freedom of expression were documented by the trade union organisation Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua (PCIN) in the period January-March this year.

The most recent report of the Observatorio de Agresiones a la Libertad de Prensa Independiente, presented on 21 April, warns that attacks on free journalism persist, having counted 78 complaints: 18 in January, 34 in February and 26 in March.

The document points out that in Nicaragua “the profession” of journalist has been “criminalised,” with men and women in the press being prosecuted and sentenced “for reporting or for being a voice critical of Daniel Ortega’s government”. It recalls that to date, journalists Miguel Mora, Miguel Mendoza, Cristiana Chamorro, Jaime Arellano (both under house arrest), Pedro Joaquín Chamorro and Juan Lorenzo Holman Chamorro are still in prison.

Government expels journalists from Mega TV in Miami

Cuban-born journalist Camilo Loret de Mola denounced that Nicaraguan government officials prevented him from entering the country and sent him back to Miami on 24 April.

De Mola was expelled without explanation along with his cameraman, César Torero, by alleged immigration officials at Managua’s Sandino airport, the journalist told Nicaraguan online media.

“It was no use asking to speak to a boss or a supervisor, the guys dressed in civilian clothes and without any identification insisted that they were the bosses. They offended me and I offended them, they disrespected me and I even told them how badly they would die. Then they told me that they were taking me prisoner, but in reality, they pushed us onto the plane,” the reporter explained.

The journalists documented their expulsion in a video that they later reproduced on social media.

Ortega sends imprisoned musicians into exile

Music producer Salvador Espinoza and his wife Xóchitl Tapia, both Nicaraguan owners of the music promoter Saxo Producciones, who were arrested on 12 April along with two other artists, were released from prison and expelled from Nicaragua on 21 April.

Norma Rivera, mother of Salvador Espinoza, said that the government contacted relatives of the musicians to tell them that “if they have an (air) ticket, we will let them go”. After agreeing to leave, police officers searched for their passports. “They took them from the jail to the airport and nobody saw them,” said Rivera, who received his son, daughter-in-law and five-year-old grandson in Germany, where he lives.

Days earlier, musician and singer-songwriter Josué Monroy and producer Carlos Canales (Costa Rican) had been expelled from Nicaragua. The group was arrested for having offered a pop rock concert in which they sang a song dedicated to the protests of April 2018.

“Artists are being banished from Nicaragua”, protested lawyer Yonarqui Martínez, defender of political prisoners during the 2018 protests. The jurist recalled that the Constitution establishes that Nicaraguans cannot be banned from entering or leaving their country, but she did not rule out that Ortega will ask Parliament to legalise banishment through an upcoming reform of the Penal Code.•

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