Three Nicaraguan journalists, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, Sergio Leon and Anibal Toruno, denounced on September 25th in a special session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the persecution against journalists and the horrors and dangers facing the independent press from the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.
Chamorro, Director of “Confidencial” and the television programs “Esta Semana” (This Week) and “Esta Noche” (Tonight), reported that the media offices he directs remain illegally occupied.
“On the night of December 13, 2018, the National Police stormed the editorial offices of Confidencial and Esta Semana, without a warrant, and looted its facilities. A day later, on December 14, they returned to occupy the property,” Chamorro denounced.
Chamorro said that over nine months later the Police maintain “a de facto confiscation of all our work equipment, as well as personal and accounting files of the Invermedia-Confidencial, Promedia-Esta Semana, and Cabal companies, and my building that houses their offices, threatening our rights to disseminate information, thinking and ideas.”
The journalist also reported that due to the harassment and threats of the dictatorship he was forced into exile in Costa Rica on January 2, 2019. “Another eight members of our journalistic team, threatened by the State, were forced to leave the country and seek refuge in Costa Rica, the United States. El Salvador and Mexico in the months of December and January,” Chamorro detailed.
However, Chamorro emphasized that the majority of Confidencial and Esta Semana reporters continue to work in Nicaragua in a state of defenselessness “under siege and threats, which regime operators maintain around their homes, and through social networks.”
Chamorro also denounced that the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR last December in favor of him, his wife and a part of his journalistic team, have been breached by the State.
“The harassment against me has been maintained through threats in the social networks linked to the regime, in which they accuse me of being a “coup promoter” and “terrorist,” as well as false accusations about illegal activities, which seek to incite hatred towards me and the journalists and technicians who accompany me in the work of informing,” expressed Chamorro.
Local media under harassment
Journalist Sergio Leon, Director of Radio La Costenisima, in Bluefields, reported that the media he directs is under constant harassment and threats.
“There is a strategy to drastically affect “La Costenisima”, and based on that the structures of the government party and government officials orient their followers not to listen to this radio station, going so far as to forbid to tune in La Costenisima in public institutions,” Leon said.
“The neighborhood and community Ortega party structures make note of the homes where residents listen to this media,” said the journalist.
Leon denounced that the walls of the radio station have been painted by FSLN militants and paramilitaries with the word “golpista” (coup monger). He also became aware of a meeting between FSLN political secretaries of the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS), in which they analyzed the editorial line of the Radio and concluded that it was subversive for the Government.
“At that meeting, the political operator told those present that Sergio Leon and La Costenisima spoil the FSLN projects, and therefore something must be done to stop us,” he noted.
The threats against Anibal Toruno
Anibal Toruno is the owner of Radio Dario, the radio station burned in Leon on April 21, 2018, by paramilitaries at the service of the Ortega government, and that has remained under harassment and threats for 18 months.
Radio Dario has kept broadcasting on its different platforms clandestinely. Toruno, who returned three weeks ago from exile, denounced in the IACHR that upon his return to the country he was threatened and besieged.
“The authorities and the paramilitary are the direct authors of the threats and aggressions against me and workers of the Radio, as well as the damages caused to the facilities. The State has orchestrated a phase of selective attacks against the voices and directors of independent media including Radio Dario, its team and me,” denounced Toruno.
The owner of Radio Dario said that on his return to Nicaragua after months in exile he encountered the same persecution against independent media and journalists as when he left.
“Censorship, attacks and repression continue at an alarming rate. Confidencial and 100% Noticias (News) are still closed. Newspapers that almost cease to exist because access to paper is blocked, the violence of the regime forces reporters to work semi-clandestinely and according to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation a total of 1,318 cases of aggressions an attacks are counted until last August,” he said.
Similar to under past military dictatorships
Edison Lanza, Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, congratulated the three Nicaraguan journalists for “continuing to do journalism despite the conditions of harassment and besiegement to independent journalism in Nicaragua.”
Lanza said that such harassment and threats against journalists for exercising their work was not seen since the military dictatorships of the 60s and 70s.
Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, Rapporteur for Nicaragua, demanded the State of Nicaragua to return what has been stolen.
Precautionary measures are requested
The three journalists denounced that the State has not complied with the precautionary measures approved by the IACHR for them, their families and teams of reporters. They further asked the Commission for precautionary measures in favor of other journalists from Confidencial and Esta Semana.
They also requested that the IACHR demand that the State stop its attacks, harassment and intimidation against journalists and their families, and “the immediate return of stolen property as well as the compensation of property destroyed.”