Four shirts and two pants. That was all I put in my luggage when I decided to leave Nicaragua, after having meditated that, if I wanted to continue publishing journalistic investigations about the Ortega-Murillo regime, a prudent silence or prison was waiting for me, as I had been warned by the ruling party. I also carried with me a “backpack” with the baggage of twenty years of experience in the face of harassment to journalism, forged in endearing newsrooms where I have dozens of friends.
In recent months, Latin America has witnessed how the risk has increased in Nicaragua for the exercise of journalism, but the repressive escalation that began at the end of May, precisely with the second raid of the Confidencial offices in Managua, has portrayed a regime where political calculation is no longer perceived. Rather, the desire to impose terror among all citizens, through the threat of prison and sieges in the homes of anyone who thinks differently, while those who try to leave the country find themselves with travel restrictions at the airport. A country turned into an immense prison.
For these dirty tasks, government leaders have the Judiciary that will be remembered in our history as the protagonist of one of the most infamous chapter of persecution for political reasons also against the independent media. Since June 3, when I went to the Prosecutor’s Office as a witness in the case of the investigation of the Violeta Barrios Foundation, for my teaching work, more than thirty people have been arrested, including presidential candidates, student leaders, businessmen, peasants, diplomats, human rights defenders, and a journalist who was sent to prison because he questioned Ortega on social media.
With three laws passed at the end of last year that criminalize the exercise of journalism and that prosecutors use to intimidate during interrogations -the favorite one is that which punishes “fake news” or cybercrimes-, reporters have chosen to stop signing their articles to protect their safety. It is a fact that can be seen in all the country’s media. Reporting is done clandestinely, as was done in the old churches’ courtyards with the so-called journalism from the catacombs in the Somoza era.
In 2001, Daniel Ortega pledged to respect freedom of expression and signed the Chapultepec Declaration, an initiative of the IAPA. On the right, the author of this article when he was a young reporter. Archive Photo / LA PRENSA.
Those of us outside continue the work while safeguarding our integrity, but if something unites us in both cases—journalists in Nicaragua and abroad—is the commitment to inform and document what is happening.
Notwithstanding that the pressures can be translated into summons to the Prosecutor’s Office or unexpected visits by civilians to my house, as the one that occurred on August 6 at noon, when they identified themselves as police officers when knocking on the door and said that they were trying to confirm my address because they would deliver a summons to present myself on that same afternoon—again—to the Public Ministry, just a few hours after I sent a query for a journalistic investigation to the Presidency. If confirmed, this would prove once again the instrumentalization of the Public Ministry and its lack of shame.
In several cases, for months now, those summoned end up arrested minutes after leaving the Prosecutor’s Office in an abominable act of trying to silence the critic, using the power of force. I do not want to subject myself to any of that. In freedom, I will continue to report on Nicaragua from wherever I am. I thank the sources that helped us investigate this political system and I ask them to continue with us sharing relevant information to tell citizens what is happening in a timely manner so that they can make informed decisions.
This generation of journalists, who are now being persecuted, are the continuity of those who preceded us. We follow in the footsteps of Pedro Joaquín and Jaime Chamorro Cardenal, Horacio Ruiz, Danilo Aguirre Solis, teachers of generations. We make paths by walking. I am proud to belong to Confidencial and to see how they have faced everything, despite the repression. In adverse times, their good example to follow is: work hard professionally, monitor power. As Saramago, who is often cited by Sergio Ramírez, used to say, when writing stones are lifted, “it is not my fault if monsters come out from time to time.”