The Ortega regime has blocked the entry of the foreign press to cover the elections on Sunday, November 7. About a dozen reporters and photojournalists, from different international media, have tried to enter the country, but immigration authorities have not allowed it, despite the reporting teams having complied with all immigration and health requirements.
Frederic Saliba, Mexican correspondent for the French newspaper Le Monde, will not be able to cover the voting this Sunday because he was not allowed to enter the country. On October 16, the day before his trip, the airline notified him that his ticket was cancelled due to a decision by the Nicaraguan authorities for “immigration reasons.” There were no further explanations, even though the journalist had met all the requirements to enter the country.
The journalist was in Nicaragua in the 2016 elections, in which Daniel Ortega took his third term in power. He travelled again in 2018 to report the social outburst.
The elections this Sunday, in which Ortega seeks to perpetuate himself in the Presidency together with his wife, Rosario Murillo, as vice president, have been questioned by the international community for lacking minimum conditions of transparency. The opposition describes them as a “farce” and a “circus.” The process does not have national and international electoral observation.
El Heraldo reporting team was expelled
On Thursday, October 28, a team from the Honduran newspaper El Heraldo —a photojournalist, a driver and a reporter—, entered the country through the El Guasuale border post, in Chinandega, but upon reaching the office of the Immigration Office, Captain Osman Saez expelled them. They all met the immigration requirements.
Saez took journalist Carlos Giron to an office and requested his personal information, besides questioning him about his work at the newspaper and the reason for his visit to Nicaragua. At one point, the captain wanted to take the reporter’s phone, but the reported prevented him. The man wanted to make sure that he was not recording the conversation and told him that it was forbidden for him to do so, to turn it off, Giron told Confidencial.
Then a person appeared that the captain identified as his “boss,” and he turned to the journalistic team and told them: “from this moment on, you will be expelled from Nicaragua. Your presence is not welcome here, and—snapping his fingers–, said leave right now,” narrated Giron. He also stated that they are “banned” because they have a file that implies they will not be able to enter the country in the future. The authorities guarded and recorded them until they left.”
This is the first time that a team from the Honduran newspaper has been expelled from the country. On previous occasions, journalists came in and carried out their work without inconveniences, the journalist explained. His and Saliba’s cases are the most recent, but not the only ones. At the beginning of October, a CNN international team also wanted to reach Nicaragua, through the land border with Costa Rica, but they were not allowed to pass, according to a report by Le Monde.
Confidencial confirmed other cases of foreign correspondents, who did not make their experiences public, but who were not allowed to enter Nicaragua either. Last June 17, the Nicaraguan Government did not approve the entry of journalist Anatoly Kurmanaev, from The New York Times.
Part of the media agenda
Saliba and Nicaraguan journalist Tifani Robers, from the Univision network, agreed that the regime uses the pandemic as a filter to allow entry or not into the country. Part of the health requirements that the Ortega government requests from foreigners and nationals is a negative result of the PCR test and their personal data. These together with the flight list must be sent by the airline to the national authorities 72 hours before the flight, time in which the journalists believe they use to inquire into the identity of the travelers.
Roberts, who has covered several electoral processes, explained that the Nicaraguan elections have been part of the agenda of the US and European media agendas since the eighties, but this year “they will not be able to (to be in the country) because there is no access.”
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“Just as we Nicaraguans have experienced unprecedented repression, journalists have also experienced an unprecedented lack of access,” said Roberts.
Saliba said the position of the Ortega Government, “is very worrying for press freedom in Nicaragua. It is also a tremendous sign of a radicalization of the regime towards freedom of the press.”
Along the same lines, Roberts stressed that “the international media that want to enter Nicaragua, no matter how independent, the Government considers them enemies because they are not aligned with them. ‘Either you are with me, or you are my enemy.’ That is the position that the Government has adopted, and nothing has changed from 2018 until now. It has simply become more acute.”
Both reporters assured that, although it was not possible to enter the country, the electoral process will always be covered. “It doesn’t stop us from working, but it covers our eyes,” said Saliba, who continues to write about the Nicaraguan political situation.
Roberts pointed out that “there is no way that the world will not find out what is going to happen in Nicaragua on November 7th.”
Without accreditation to the press
Before the social outburst of 2018, any request for accreditation of coverage for the foreign press was done through Idania Castillo, co-director of the National Film Library. However, she is currently not responding to requests from journalists interested in knowing if there is an accreditation process for election coverage, confirmed a Nicaraguan reporter who, for fear of reprisals, requested to omit his identity.
The same source explained that it does not know if the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) has organized a special accreditation for the national press, as happened in 2016, the year in which the presidential couple still allowed news agencies, foreign press and local journalists to photograph them, after exercising their right to suffrage in the Polling Station that the CSE set up exclusively for Ortega and Murillo, inside the security ring of their home/offices at El Carmen in Managua.
Another source told Confidencial that other journalists in the country wrote to Castillo to ask about the accreditation process for November 7, but she only answered: “Thank you for your interest.”
This article was originally published in Spanish on our website. It has been translated into English by Havana Times