The international community joined Nicaraguan organizations and prominent figures in expressing their repudiation of the May 20 police actions. Officers raided and looted the recording studios belonging to Carlos F. Chamorro. A multitude of organizations expressed solidarity with the team involved in the internet television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche. They also demanded respect for freedom of the press and expression in Nicaragua.
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, urged respect for the lives and physical integrity of the Confidencial workers. He demanded an end to the harassment. “Respect for freedom of expression, an essential element of democracy, drives our repudiation of this type of assault,” he wrote on Twitter.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, who heads the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, also issued a statement on the raid. He asserted that this new repressive act was aimed at “impeding any criticism and stealing the November 2021 presidential elections.”
Erika Rosas Guevara, Americas Director for Amnesty International, denounced the illegal police detention of cameraman Leonel Gutierrez. Gutierrez was freed after being held for seven hours, with no legal explanation.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Nicaraguan human rights collective “Nunca +”, and other organizations also stressed their rejection of Leonel Gutierrez’ arbitrary detention.
“The OHCHR calls on the Nicaraguan authorities to fully comply with their international obligations in terms of freedom of expression, association and political participation. These are essential for free, fair and credible elections on November 7th,” the organization tweeted.
“The Nunca + [Never more] Nicaraguan Human Rights Collective condemns the arbitrary and illegal detention of cameraman Leonel Gutierrez today. He was detained during the police raid on the offices of Confidencial,” the collective wrote on their media site.
Similarly, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur expressed “concern” over the “grave attacks on press freedom”.
Silvio Baez, Assistant Bishop of Managua, also expressed his solidarity with Chamorro and the Confidencial team. Monsignor Baez was transferred out of Nicaragua in 2019, after receiving threats from the Ortega regime. He called the raid on the Confidencial studio, “a new outrage of the dictatorship, directed against this media outlet.”
“Like an act of war”
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) energetically condemned “this aggression against independent journalism”. At the site of the raid, the organization confirmed: “excessive militarization, patrol vehicles full of riot squad agents posted along the street and inside the Invercasa building [where the studios were housed]. It was like an act of war,” the organization denounced.
Cenidh warned: “These criminal actions directed by the Ortega-Murillo regime have no limits. They’re evidence of the state of terror prevailing in our country.” Meanwhile, the organization Voces del sur [“Voices from the South”], called the event: “a new chapter in the persecution the government of Nicaragua is directing against critical voices and human rights advocates.”
The Mothers of April Association, along with “Ama y no olvida” [“Love and don’t forget”], the Museum of Memory, added their voices to the repudiation of the abusive actions of the regime and the police. They recognized the work of those who “have given voice to the victims and have maintained their commitment to the truth.”
Business organizations also condemn illegal repression
The directive boards of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) and the American Chamber of Commerce of Nicaragua (AmCham) also issued condemnations on their social media sites. They repudiated the government’s recent repressive actions, including abolishing legal status of NGOs, attacks on the media, and accusations aimed at a presidential pre-candidate.
“We reject and denounce the harassment, repression and criminalization that opposition leaders, media directors and independent journalists continue to be objects of. These attacks are directed by the government party in order to generate mistrust and disillusionment among citizens who trust in the power of their votes to overcome the current crisis.” Those were the words of Cosep, in a press note.
The American Chamber of Commerce noted: “In the lapse of one hour today, we Nicaraguans once again watched individual liberty and free expression being run over.”
They expressed their solidarity, “with our partner, Confidencial, and with Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. Also, with other journalists who were attacked or detained, including Leonel Gutierrez, Confidencial’s cameraman.”
“Reestablishing the rule of law in Nicaragua, with independent branches of government and public freedoms, is indispensable. Without individual liberty, there’s no free enterprise. Without free expression, there’s no democracy,” the organization declared.
Similarly, Cosep urged: “The governing party and functionaries of the different state institutions to contribute to a peaceful and democratic solution. One that demonstrates a real political will to offer guarantees to the citizens, that the electoral process will be fair, free and transparent.”
“We are in solidarity with Cristiana Chamorro, former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation and independent presidential precandidate. We are also in solidarity with journalist Carlos F. Chamorro and the staff of Confidencial and Esta Semana, in light of today’s events,” the statement concluded.
The Meso-American Initiative for Women Human Rights Advocates affirmed: “In the context of the electoral process in which the country is already immersed, these attacks appear directed at intensifying the restrictions to freedom of expression and information that already reign in Nicaragua. They’ve been especially intense since 2018, with the intention of silencing voices and narratives critical of the current government.”