Although a week has passed since the arrest of journalists Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau, director and news director of the television channel 100% Noticias [“100% News], the authorities at the El Chipote jail haven’t allowed family members to have any communication with them. They have merely authorized food to be brought in, but have not offered up any information on the state of their health.
Lawyers from the Permanent Human Rights Commission and authorities from the Costa Rican consulate in Managua have both submitted requests for the family members to be able to speak with the reporters, but the only response they’ve received from the “El Chipote” jail where they’re being held is that they need a court order. The latter is impossible to obtain, since the court functionaries who could issue one are currently on vacation.
“Neither the lawyers nor ourselves have been able to speak with her. There’s been a permanent refusal. We believe that it’s part of the regime’s strategy to increase the victims’ stress by pressuring the family,” stated Alejandro Ubau, Lucia Pineda’s brother. He also noted that they can’t establish whether or not she is in good health, since no one has seen her.
Last Wednesday, Veronica Chavez, also a journalist and Miguel Mora’s wife, also requested visitation rights from the jail authorities; nonetheless, her petition was ignored.
Both journalists who were critical of the regime were abducted by the National Police on the night of December 21, following an order to cancel the channel’s transmission. Related police actions included the closure and confiscation of their installations. The regime accuses them of “provoking, planning and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.”
A press memorandum from the Justice Department maintains that Pineda “encouraged and fomented hatred for reasons of political difference, disseminating on television and on social media false information with the intention of generating uneasiness and hatred towards the sympathizers and members of the Sandinista Front.”
Inter-American Commission for Human Rights denounces journalist repression
On Thursday, December 27, Esmeralda Trotti, vice president of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) denounced before the OAS Permanent Council that in Nicaragua there’ve been 117 attacks against the freedom of the press during the period from October 20 through December 16.
The IACHR vice president reported that cases of aggression against reporters and workers for the communications media have intensified. She also described the very grave context of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
In its report, the IACHR included the events that occurred on December 14, when Daniel Ortega’s police force occupied, without any legal orders, the offices of the digital magazine Confidencial and of the television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche, directed by Carlos Fernando Chamorro. They also assaulted the site of the Cabal company, property of Chamorro’s wife, Desiree Elizondo.
In addition, it noted the riot police’s assault on December 15 against Chamorro and reporters for Confidencial when they arrived at the Police headquarters in Managua to demand an explanation for the illegal occupation of the media offices.
Trotti, the IACHR vice president, condemned the dictatorship’s policy of using detention and criminalization as weapons against the exercise of free expression and freedom of the press, specifically in the cases of Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda.
In the same way, she made it clear that the Commission is aware of the threat of criminal accusations being made against Leticia Gaitan, Jackson Orozco, Luis Galeano, and Jaime Arellano.
In this new phase of repression, warned the IACHR, the Ortega camp is confiscating, jailing and fabricating criminal accusations against journalists critical of the regime. This adds to the toll of 325 confirmed dead, over 3,000 wounded, dozens of missing, more than 600 political prisoners, and over 60,000 who’ve fled to other countries due to the political persecution.
Inter-American Press Society condemns journalists’ detention
The Inter-American Press Society (SIP) also condemned the arrest of Mora and Pineda, and the closure of the 100% Noticias news channel.
Maria Elvira Dominguez, president of the society, declared that with this action the Ortega regime is demonstrating its intention of closing off all forms of expression in the country. At the same time, she demanded the immediate release of the journalists.
“We have no doubt that Ortega and the lackeys that surround him have declared war on the independent communications media. We hold the regime responsible for Mr. Mora’s physical integrity and for that of all the Nicaraguan journalists that have been assaulted, harassed and dragged through the mud by a regime that lacks even minimal respect for human rights,” Dominguez stated.
“In the face of the vicious attack of the Ortega dictatorship against freedom of expression we offer our deep support and solidarity with Mora and the journalists and independent media of Nicaragua that are suffering persecution and violence for exercising their labors with freedom and a sense of responsibility,” the SIP president concluded.
In October, the Inter-American Press Society awarded its 2018 High Award for Press Freedom to the independent journalism of Nicaragua, in recognition for the courage and valor of the Nicaraguan journalists who’ve been murdered, persecuted, censored and who nevertheless continue to work under threat from the Ortega regime. The award was aptly received in Salta, Argentina, by Miguel Mora, representing Nicaraguan journalism.
Edison Lanza, IACHR special rapporteur for freedom of expression, declared to Confidencial: “the acts of that night [Friday, December 21] – the ransacking, the removal from the air by government order, the jailing of its director and news director Lucia Pineda – is an aberrant and radical form of censorship that the Nicaraguan government is adopting.”
The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, that works for the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in Nicaragua, counted at least 420 acts of aggression against journalists and the communications media in the first six months of the protests in Nicaragua. In the current phase of the repression the figure continues to increase.