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The Surge of Aggressions against Journalists in Nicaragua

No country in history has been able to silence journalism. Not even Nazi Germany.

Journalists in Nicaragua continue to live fateful days, the attacks against them do not cease. There was never a will to compromise with an independent press. It’s not something new. Since Commander Ortega’s return to power (January/2007), a wide division between dissident and pro-government journalists has been encouraged.

More than thirteen years of threats, attacks, take-over of facilities and closing media outlets, have not been able to tame or break the fighting spirit of journalists and media owners adverse to the current management of public administration. The recent attacks confirm that today there is no desire to seek a reasonable accommodation with journalists and media owners who are critical of the Government.

In our contemporary history, the irritation that journalists provoke to the rulers has always been a constant. They are almost always perceived as enemies to be fined, harassed, threatened, attacked or coopted.

When these forms of influencing conscience do not work, the following steps consist on pressuring them to seek the path of exile, imprison them, confiscate their assets or kill them.

The history of journalism in Nicaragua has been a history of struggles and adversities, and notwithstanding governments have not managed to align them in their favor. Rather, they tend to harden their positions. Political intolerance has been elevated to a State norm. We live stuck in the past. It continues to be valid.

Rulers have never wanted to understand that one of the basic functions of the press consists in overseeing public administration. They do not like to be held accountable, knowing that the media and journalists will inevitably do it. To behave differently would mean a severe setback for the press. They would lose credibility with readers and audiences.

Official and pro-official press do not enjoy good health. Their discursive nature, prone to praise, transforms it into a simple resonance box for those who hold public power. There is no way for them to gain space. National history itself has been responsible for showing the public that the official and pro-official press only knows how to sing praise for the benefit of the rulers.

Only those who ignore the history of Nicaraguan journalism, insist in their attempt to silence critical voices. For forty-five years “Somocismo” tried but never succeed it. No country in history has been able to silence journalism. Not even Nazi Germany. Much less could they do it now that they have digital technologies available.

Many transmit from abroad. They fear to be subject of reprisals. They still do not dare to return to the country. With the repression, the number of media outlets unrelated to the Government multiplied. Journalists whose employment contracts were canceled due to a lack of advertising were successful in reinventing themselves and creating their own information mechanisms. A proof of their consistency and maturity.

Numerous examples substantiate that censorship and taking over facilities do not work. Confidencial, Esta Semana and Esta Noche continue their course without anything disrupting their editorial and information policy. Increasingly influential and belligerent. The same happened with the takeover of 100% Noticias. After a forced hiatus —their director and press chief were jailed—, they returned renewed.

Neither Carlos F. Chamorro, Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau, lay down their attitude. They continue reporting and looking how to establish their own work agenda.  The same happened with the “Cafe con Voz” program, under the direction of Luis Galeano. Nothing stops them. They continue their informative work as a sign of commitment to readers and television viewers. They did not back down.

The siege against “Radio Dario” felt short of its intention, Anibal Toruno remains faithful to the commitment acquired with his father and the listeners from Leon. His stay in exile deepened the responsibility of keeping the initiative of Juan Toruno Calderon alive, who in 1951 created a radio station to put it at the service of the western part of the country.

The history of Radio Dario is identical to the history suffered by different media outlets in Nicaragua. Its scars are visible. Neither the different fires—including the one that occurred in April 2018—nor persecutions of its director and journalists have been able to precipitate it into the void. Its persistence shows the determination of media owners not to give up even if they have to pay a high price.

The polarization that Nicaraguan society experiences becomes a breeding ground for the most radical expressions to take place and explode. This state of permanent turmoil benefits nobody else but the politicians.

On numerous occasions the media are tempted to heat up the mood. The indiscriminate use of adjectives and partisan signaling of people constitute the heart of news. An anachronistic, rotten form of journalism.

Fatal outcomes must be avoided. No more deaths should be added to the mourning of Nicaraguans due to the death of relatives caused by the plague. The social networks are still poisoned. On one side and the other, the taunts divulged stimulate the belligerence among radical fanatics.

I believe that only people eager to intensify and heighten the discord among Nicaraguan families, were able to write a terrifying letter, and then go to drop it off at the home of journalist Gerall Chavez’s parents. The death threat is explicit. Its content is somber. They claim to be willing to slit his throat and pull out his balls to make him swallow them. They warn him not to return to the country.

Chavez lives in exile in Costa Rica. He fears for his family. His fear is justified. Who in their right mind is capable of writing a letter in the terms they did regarding him? If the goal was to intimidate him into quitting journalism, his answer was forceful. He will not renounce!

What needs to be done to install sanity? Are national and international bodies exhausted? In almost all societies journalists bear the brunt. The nature of their work makes them suspicious. It is wrong to ask journalism to renounce or jeopardize its critical nature.

They cannot behave like the official media, created to praise the work of governments and to contradict the narratives that confront their discourse. To have their own media apparatus does not give any guarantee to rulers. Politicians and rulers wish to have a submissive press that heed their dictates. In Nicaragua, the situation is exacerbated by the high level of intolerance from politicians and rulers.

The little margin that exists to avoid painful situations must be seized by the different sectors that in Nicaragua are openly fighting a political struggle. Reason calls for sanity. What can we do to make them listen? Are they congenital deaf?

The human, social, political, and economical, wear and tear requires finding a way out of the current situation, before the national landscape continues to darken. The art of politics consists on making the impossible a reality. Finding solutions to extreme situations. Negotiations are to politics what oxygen is to the lungs. A vital resource. To think that journalists are to blame for the crisis that has struck Nicaragua, is a whimsical assumption. Totally flawed and wrong.

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