At least 420 violations of press freedom were registered in Nicaragua in the first six months of the socio-political crisis unleashed by the repression of citizen protests against the government of Daniel Ortega, informed the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
Since the social upheaval beginning April 18, journalists and owners of independent media have suffered aggression, censorship, threats and death, among other transgressions, according to the report “Nicaragua, six months of sociopolitical crisis, dark days for independent journalism,” released last week by the Foundation.
“Since the beginning of the crisis, the exercise of independent journalism has become a difficult and risky practice, affecting even more the already eroded practice of press freedom in Nicaragua,” highlighted the Foundation in the document.
In the first six months of the conflict the Foundation recorded aggressions against reporters, attacks on media installations, theft of equipment, threats, defamations, acts of censorship, intimidation, harassment both verbally and judicially, administrative restrictions and one reporter, Angel Gahona, shot and killed.
Some twenty journalists and 3 photographers were victims of three violations of press freedom in one single action, according to the report.
The document also revealed that most of the aggressors were: 162 militants of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), another 78 were police officers, 76 paramilitaries, 20 were from the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications (TELCOR) and 12 unidentified.
The hardest month was July with 111 cases, followed by the last 13 days of April with 91, June with 85, August with 48, the first 18 days of October with 31, May with 29 and September with 25.
Among the most relevant cases, in addition to the death of Gahona, the report shows the burning of Radio Dario in Leon which occurred on April 20, the aggression against 7 journalists, 5 cameramen and 2 photographers on July 9, and the burning of the official radio station Nueva Radio Ya on May 30th.
“Currently, independent journalism is experiencing a marked decline in press freedom, due to the increase of harassment, hostility and defamatory campaigns against journalists and independent media outlets,” presented the Foundation in its conclusions.
It also emphasized that there is “an increase of secrecy and intimidation” against the press, harassment through state institutions, silence by public employees, and the expulsion of journalists from government conferences. The government is also accused of fomenting “a constant discourse that promotes hatred towards independent media and of describing it as an enemy and destabilizing.”
The sociopolitical crisis experienced in Nicaragua has left more than 325 confirmed deaths and more than 550 political prisoners, according to human rights organizations.
The Government only recognizes 199 victims and 273 prisoners, who it labels all as “terrorists” and “coup promoters”.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) have blamed the government for “more than 300 deaths,” as well as of extrajudicial executions, torture, obstruction to medical attention, arbitrary detentions, kidnappings and sexual violence, among other human rights violations.
Ortega denies responsibility and maintains that he suffers an attempt of a “coup d’état.”
The protests against Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, began with a decree of social security reforms and became a demand for their resignation due to the deadly repression of the demonstrations.