At least 185 journalists have left Nicaragua and gone into exile for safety reasons since April 2018, the month when massive demonstrations against the government of Daniel Ortega broke out. The current count comes from a report recently released by the regional network for press freedom Voces del Sur [“Voices from the South”].
“In the first quarter of 2023, we learned of seven journalists forced to leave the country due to the constant police sieges and intimidation they were victims of. Voces del Sur has now complied a systematic list of 185 journalists who have left Nicaragua since 2018,” indicated the regional network in their quarterly report.
The report is titled: “Press freedom in Nicaragua has no chance to breath: Ortega’s attacks don’t let up.” In it, the organization documented a total of “14 alerts regarding press freedom violations, which translated into 38 individual cases,” between January and March of 2023.
“The threats of jail or expulsion from the country figure as two of the principal forms of intimidation against those who exercise journalism,” noted the regional network. The report was written in collaboration with their Nicaraguan partner organization, the Foundation for Freedom of Expression and Democracy.
Self-censorship also on the rise
In the document, Voces del Sur announced they’ll no longer be posting monthly reports in 2023, but four quarterly ones instead, “due to the growing rise in self-censorship among the victims themselves, which has diminished the denunciations and furthered the advance of the regime’s criminalization of independent journalism.”
Also: “From now on, due to the permanent risks to journalists and other media workers still living and working in the country [Nicaragua], we’ve decided to omit the names and geographic locations of those denouncing the aggressions they’re the victims of, in order to preserve the integrity of these professionals,” the report noted.
“We must take into consideration that, as organizations that defend press freedom, we also have a great commitment to safeguard the security and lives of the journalists and their families,” the document added.
Condemnation of the regime’s denationalization of journalists
Voces del Sur and the Foundation for Freedom of Expression and Democracy both condemned “the actions in violation of human rights that the government of Nicaragua has taken during the first quarter of the year, especially the act of stripping citizens of their nationality, expelling and banishing 222 Nicaraguans, including journalists, executives and other media workers.”
“We equally repudiate the denationalization of an additional 94 people, including at least 10 who work in communications,” they added.
In the report, both organizations lamented: “This act seeks to instill greater terror among the men and women of the press, who have strictly maintained their professional ethics and have challenged the censorship and repression prescribed by the Ortega-Murillo government.”
In addition, they denounced “the illegal takeover of properties, the freezing of bank accounts, refusal to pay pensions, and other coercive measures the victims have described,” including journalists left stateless. The report noted with regret the “sepulchral and complacent” silence, “maintained by the bank entities, who have cooperated by freezing the accounts of journalists and other citizens.”
Countries urged to welcome the exiled journalists
In the same vein, the groups rejected the “implicit menace” the government extended against the informative media that reported on the rupture of Nicaragua’s diplomatic relations with the Vatican” on March 12. According to the report, these outlets were accused “of spreading false news.”
Voces del Sur also reminded “the governments of the world, the importance of facilitating refuge, legal support and other conditions, so that independent journalists who find themselves forced to leave the country can continue with their commitment to inform and thus contribute to breaking down the government imposed wall of censorship.”
Voces del Sur is a regional network created in 2017 by Latin American civil society organizations that work together to promote and defend freedom of the press and of expression, access to information and the security and protection of journalists.