Less than 24 hours after the violent assault and looting of the newsrooms of the communication media outlets Confidencial and Esta Semana, the Police –loyal to dictator Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo – have occupied the facilities, ordering the removal of the security guards and installing half a dozen armed policemen inside the building, which was still disorderly and destroyed after the first attack.
The Police returned to the offices of Confidencial they had ransacked on Thursday at 10:27 on Friday night, to take over the residence, from which the night before they stole the extensive production and editing equipment from the newsroom of these independent media outlets, accounting documents and personal belongings.
Two patrols and a minibus dropped half a dozen agents of the Special Operations Direction (DOEP) to take control of the building. The Police ordered the security guards to leave the premises, warning them: “we’ve come to take over this shit.”
Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, Director of Confidencial and “Esta Semana” (This Week), denounced the “fascist aggression” of the dictatorship. “Last night the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega stormed the newsroom of “Esta Semana”, Confidencial and “Esta Noche” (Tonight), and today at 10 p.m. sent the Police again to withdraw the security company and take over our offices,” he said.
“We alert national and international public opinion. The Ortega-Murillo dictatorship ordered the police to take over once again the newsroom of Confidencial and Esta Semana today at 10:00 pm. They will not shut us down. We will continue to denounce this fascist assault,” added Chamorro.
In the premises operate also the newsrooms of “Revista Niu” (Niu Magazine) and the consultancy CABAL, owned by Desiree Elizondo, Chamorro’s wife, which were also ransacked and destroyed by the Police.
Chamorro called on the Minister of the Interior, Maria Amelia Coronel, to order the Police to vacate the newsroom of Confidencial. “If they pretend to claim that they are occupying the property and companies that belong to the persecuted NGO, CINCO, he called on her to show it. It is totally false,” said Chamorro, because “the companies Promedia, Invermedia and CABAL are not related to any of the persecuted NGOs, and the building they occupy is my property.
Interior Ministry orders confiscations
Again, simultaneously, the Police also intervened the facilities of Fundación Popol Na, the headquarters of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) in Chontales and the Center for the Information and Consulting Services on Health (CISAS), whose legal status was also cancelled along with other non-governmental organizations, in a persecution without precedent.
In less than fifteen days, the Ortega bulldozer (majority) at the National Assembly annulled the legal status of nine long-standing organizations. Among these is also the Communication Research Center (CINCO), of which Chamorro has been a board member for twenty years, but with which he has no legal, economic or institutional relationship. He notes that this clearly an attack directed by the regime that operates out of the El Carmen bunker.
On Friday afternoon, the Ministry of the Interior issued an order to appropriate the assets of the NGOs whose legal status they cancelled.
“Confidencial does not belong to any NGO, but to a limited liability company. No to confiscation,” demanded Chamorro from his Twitter account.
Due to the assault, Confidencial had to suspend the circulation of its weekly printed edition scheduled for this Sunday and on Friday it produced and broadcasted live on Channel 12 local television the program Esta Noche, denouncing this new assault on the independent press of Nicaragua.
“We demand that they leave Confidencial’s (premises). The dictatorship’s Police should vacate the offices. Our newsroom is financed by the companies Promedia and Invermedia, it does not belong to any NGO that they have stripped from their legal status. No to confiscation! Chamorro reiterated.
“Here we are”
During the broadcasting of the program Esta Noche, Chamorro warned that “if the objective of this triple attack against freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of enterprise is to close us down, shut us up or intimidate us, tonight we tell the dictatorship: here we are, ideas cannot be killed. Journalists have a sacred commitment to the truth and we will continue to report, investigate, make those in power accountable, and denounce corruption and the abuses of the dictatorship.”
Chamorro reported that the assault was ordered by “the Supreme Chief of the National Police, the dictator, Daniel Ortega, who has turned the Police into a criminal force.” He added that “they knew that they were ransacking the offices of a communication media and not CINCO.”
Hours before the building was occupied, the Ministry of the Interior had already insisted on sending a communication addressed to CINCO to the offices of Confidencial.
“We denounce the dictatorship once again for this new attack, which is also an attempt to steal and confiscate the assets of the companies Promedia and Invermedia, which are the producers of Confidencial and Esta Semana, now that they are trying to establish a false relationship with CINCO,” Chamorro stated.
For the journalist, what happened to Confidencial and Esta Semana “plays a part in the repressive escalation of a dictatorship that is defeated politically and that can only be sustained by terror, but the morale and the principles of our journalists and our editorial staff are intact.”
“They can steal all the computers and equipment they want, they can threaten and persecute us, but they will not make us self-censor and stop reporting. We have a sacred commitment to our people who have been massacred and imprisoned, to tell how to change a bloody dictatorship by peaceful means and how we Nicaraguans are going to achieve the reconstruction of our country in peace, with democracy and free elections, and with a justice system that punishes the crimes of the dictatorship that will not be left in impunity,” he said.
Condemnation of the dictatorship
The main international human rights organizations condemned the assault to the newsroom of Confidencial, Niu, Esta Semana and Esta Noche. The Office of the High Commission for Human Rights of the UN maintained that these actions constitute a pattern of violation of the fundamental freedom of expression.
David Kaye, a UN expert on freedom of expression, issued a joint statement with the special rapporteur of the IAHRC, condemning the harassment of communication media in Nicaragua. According to both officials, the situation of freedom of expression in Nicaragua is grim, due to the aggressions, censorship, police persecution and that of other paramilitary groups against the press.
The Director for the Americas of Amnesty International, Ericka Guevara, said that the assault on Confidencial shows a total breakdown of the rule of law and the intention to continue violating human rights.
Human Rights Watch also urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, to speak as soon as possible about the assault against freedom of expression and civil society in Nicaragua. Jose Miguel Vivanco, Director of Human Rights Watch, categorically repudiated the assault on Confidencial.
Private sector warns of stepped-up repression
The Nicaraguan private sector expressed its indisputable solidarity with the companies Promedia and Invermedia, in the face of the assault perpetrated by dozens of police officers, which took away without a court order nearly twenty computers and more than a dozen hard drives, among other abundant office and journalistic equipment.
When denouncing the “attack against two private companies” Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of the four media outlets that depend on the two companies that were assaulted, said that it was” a brutal assault … ordered by a brutal dictator. ”
Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise, (Cosep), said what has happened shows that “our constitutional rights are without state protection”, which “was evidenced once again, not only with the cancellation of the legal status of nine non-profits, but with this illegal raid against three private companies that are not linked to that decision that the National Assembly took. ”
“We are in solidarity with Confidential, Promedia, Invermedia, Cabal, and each of the NGOs that are suffering from this situation. As far as possible, we will try to give our experience in legal terms on what can be done in terms of actions that at least establish what is correct according to the laws… even if we know the final results,” added the business leader.
For its part, the American Chamber of Commerce of Nicaragua (AmCham), came out in defense of the assaulted companies, especially its partner Media Producer S.A. (Promedia), as well as “vigorously denouncing the recent violations and raids on organizations that have been stripped of their legal status.”
AmCham reiterated the importance of guaranteeing the right to free enterprise, freedom of expression and the right of association, all contemplated in the country’s Constitution.
The presidents of three chambers affiliated to Cosep called attention to what they consider an escalation of the repression perpetrated by the regime, which this time points directly against private companies and civil society organizations which the presidential couple identifies as enemies.
“This is a new step in the level of repression, which in this case affects private enterprise. These are not NGOs, not only communications media, so we sympathize with them for what they are: private companies,” said Ximena González, president of the Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE).
Her colleague Lucy Valenti, president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur), defined what she considers “another escalation of the repression against freedom of expression in the country, which has no justification or makes any sense.”
Sergio Maltez, president of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Industries (Cadin) said “they cannot continue to undermine freedom of expression, private property, respect for the law and the law itself, the Constitution must be respected. The president has to give a complete about-face to this situation, because if he doesn’t, it is going to lead us to a disaster not only in economic terms but also socially.”
Valenti, Aguerri and Gonzalez coincided with Maltez about the need to resume dialogue, as the only civilized way of finding solutions to the political, economic and social crisis afflicting Nicaragua. They noted that the private sector has just expressed its position in a letter sent to the presidency on Wednesday, December 12th.
The Inter-American Press Association (SIP) condemned the break in and sacking of the media formed by Confidential, This Week, Tonight and Niu, an act that it called “a serious attack on freedom of expression and democracy.”
The president of the SIP, Maria Elvira Domínguez, said that “it is a serious violation and another blatant act of violence against the media that bravely inform and expose to the public the true face of a regime distanced from tolerance and democracy.”
Meanwhile, the Carter Center said from Atlanta that it is “deeply concerned about the recent attack and continued repression of the government of Nicaragua on civil society organizations and the media.”
“Recent government actions intimidate and criminalize people who legitimately defend their rights, without respecting due process of law. We make a fervent and unequivocal call to the Government to correct these actions and restore the rights of citizens to articulate their opposing views without fear of persecution,” urged the organization founded by former US President James Carter, with a history of accompaniment in Nicaragua.