Freedom Of Press Stifled In Nicaragua Under Ortega Dictatorship

The independent press in Nicaragua continues to be assaulted by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and his family. Following anti-government protests which broke out in April, the government initially tried to control coverage through pressure placed upon media bosses to self-censor. However, in recent months, the assault on press freedoms has intensified, with journalists being beaten, arrested and robbed, and media infrastructure being targeted. A prominent victim of the assault on Nicaragua’s press has been Miguel Mora, who is facing criminal charges of “inciting hate” due to his journalistic criticism of the dictator. Not only this, but the police have raided the Managua office of the privately owned ‘Confidencial’, and its sister programs ‘Esta Noche’ and ‘Esta Semana’. Carlos Fernando Chamorro, founder and director of all three news outlets, and believes that this is further evidence of the agenda of Ortega to silence those who speak out against him.

Miguel Mora has spoken out, saying that “this is the stage where they try to silence us”, given that “this government has banned protest, captured opposition leaders, and now the only thing preventing a totalitarian dictatorship is the independent media”. This statement is following Mora’s being pulled by armed police and told “you’re responsible for the death of police. If you keep f***ing around, we’re going to kill you and your whole family”. Dánae Vílchez, a Nicaraguan journalist, has written for The Washington Post, noting that most citizens are crying out for democracy, peace and justice, with the nation of Nicaragua having suffered since April. This involves more than 300 being killed by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, and more than 500 people being made political prisoners. Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau, wrote “these independent media outlets are nonetheless doing a vital job, which is to draw attention to the Ortega family’s violent crackdown and the almost complete control it wields over the country”.

Dánae Vílchez feels the political hostilities in Nicaragua should alarm the international community, given the region’s history with repressive regimes. However, for Vílchez, the story seems to be repeating itself, as the international community has remained slow to act upon the threat to the people of Nicaragua. The threat is imminent, and daily, with the assault on free press a symptom of the government’s disregard for democracy and human rights. In April, the police shot 15-year-old Álvaro Conrado in the throat while he was bringing water to protesting university students, and he later died, having initially been refused medical attention. As well as this, peaceful demonstrations are now criminalized, with participants rounded up and accused of being terrorists.

The attack on the freedom of the press in Nicaragua is an inevitable side effect of the dictatorship of Ortega, which has plagued the people of Nicaragua. The persecution of media critics in Nicaragua has not let up since April. This began as obstructing journalists covering protests and social unrest, but now the police are undertaking direct, violent action against those regarded as overly critical of the government. The stifling of the free press in Nicaragua is an attempt to silence any form of criticism or opposition, and in turn, pacify the population. In regards to the issues in Nicaragua, several speakers for the Security Council highlighted that the Council’s mandate is limited to threats to international peace and security, not domestic issues, and emphasised the importance of the independence and national sovereignty of states. On the other hand, some delegates stressed the Council’s obligation to respond to early signs of conflict such as these shown by Ortega’s government, as a critical element of United Nations efforts to prevent conflict. This has led UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to call for the UN and international community to take urgent, “concrete action”, as the situation in Nicaragua should be viewed as a human rights crisis.