Far from the Nicaraguan soil that saw him develop into a professional of radio communication, journalist Julio López -one of the trademark voices of the Onda Local program-, reported he had to go into exile. He did so after learning that the Ortega regime, without an open judicial process against him and without officially informing him, had imposed immigration restrictions on him.
On June 21, according to the story published by Lopez on the Onda Local website, the journalist was traveling to Costa Rica to “attend to a personal activity,” but upon arriving at the Nicaraguan border post—in Penas Blancas—immigration officials informed him that “he could not travel because there was an immigration restriction order on him” and they took away his passport.
“When I arrived at the Penas Blancas border, two immigration officials were waiting for me. There was an asterisk by my name on the passenger list. When they asked for the seat number, one of the officials said: ‘That is Julito!’ And they isolated me,” he said.
For 20 minutes, the journalist was questioned by Nicaraguan immigration officials about where he was going, the reason for the trip, the address where he planned to stay. They asked him for his passport, health pass, health insurance, which are entry requirements of Costa Rica and later they announced that he could not leave.
When trying to find out the reason of the immigration restriction, the officials told him to ask the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).
Faced with the Ortega imposition, Lopez decided to make that possibility a reality: he went into exile, which was only planned as a “last alternative to preserve my life and freedom.” He explains that he also did it to preserve the “peace of mind” of his family, emphasizing that this has also meant “a sadness” for them.
The summons of the Prosecutor’s Office
The Public Ministry issued a statement that it summoned López on June 24th for an interview in the case for the alleged money laundering against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH). The journalist confirms in his story that the summon reached his mother’s house in that period of time in which he was prevented from leaving Nicaragua.
He explains that his relationship with the FVBCH took place “within the scope of the law,” through the provision of professional services in the capacity of journalism, as a beneficiary of scholarships and training programs.
“All my activity as a journalist is public and is available on the Onda Local webpage. My journalistic actions have always been based on ethics and journalistic rigor. I have not committed any crime,” he stressed.
Lopez insisted “I have nothing to hide,” but that in Nicaragua the “lack of independent institutions prevails to such an extent that the Prosecutor’s Office is not an independent body, does not act in accordance with human rights. It only executes the orders of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.”
“I received the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Award for Excellence in Journalism on three occasions, in the categories of radio, local news, community, transparency and sustainability, awards given by the Foundation under the scrutiny of highly prestigious international juries,” he explained.
The Prosecutor’s Office released a statement on June 24 stating that López “did not attend its summons or justify his absence.” The journalist denounced that in its press release, the Prosecutor’s Office violated his right to privacy of his personal data, since it disclosed the name of his mother, whom he describes as “a humble, peasant woman and always a fighter.”
Lopez stressed that his family “has always been on the sidelines of my activity as a journalist,” for which he demanded “respect for the integrity” of all his relatives and holds the Ortega regime responsible for “anything that might happen to them.”
The Ortega regime, according to records compiled by Confidencial, based on the statements released by the Public Ministry, has unleashed a whole wave of express subpoenas that so far has included 27 journalists, owners, representatives or directors of independent media outlets.
In these three years of sociopolitical crisis, journalists have been robbed, beaten, raided, persecuted, wounded, criminalized for exercising their work, and even murdered, as happened with the journalist Angel Gahona.
Dozens of communicators have had to go into exile to protect their lives, their freedom and to continue doing journalism. Currently, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of Confidencial, is out of Nicaragua, after his home was arbitrarily raided by the Police. And sportswriter Miguel Mendoza is in jail, according to the Prosecutor’s Office for being investigated for allegedly violating the catch-all Law 1055, called “Law in Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination for Peace.” For the same reason, journalist and presidential candidate Miguel Mora is also detained.
Lopez has also been the victim of attacks in these three years of crisis in Nicaragua. During the beginning of the citizens’ protests against the Ortega regime, on April 19, 2018, mobs from the Sandinista Front beat him on the head and left him unconscious while the journalist was doing a live broadcast of the aggression suffered by protestors in Managua.
Faced with this new Ortega action against him, the journalist affirms that he will continue doing the Onda Local program from his exile and that his commitment “remains firm”. He added, “They will not silence us. Right now, exile is the only way to freedom.”
*This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times.