Power, journalism and citizenry in Nicaragua

As media outlets, we must be accountable to our audiences, empowering them through participation in decision making

28 de mayo 2021


The Ortega Murillo regime will keep on trying to close even the last space for freedom. Beyond the streets, this includes traditional and digital media outlets, as well as other platforms that enable the citizenry to be informed, debate, and exercise critical thinking. They do not criminalize freedom of thought further only because they cannot read our minds. But their brute force will not suffice. In fact, the display of total violence that we have witnessed the past couple of years reflects their weakness.

Since Ortega regained power in 2007, up to March 2018, they built structural, strategic, and tactical advantages for their macabre project. During that period, the regime nurtured the active complicity of traditional power groups and the silent acquiescence of a critical mass of society who, without thinking twice, sacrificed freedom for an empty promise of stability and prosperity. Ortega and Murillo proved themselves incredibly powerful by building their dictatorship more with the carrot than with the stick, imposing on us chains that many foolishly came to revere.

Even then they showed their capability and will for violence, but it was not, as it is now, the main pillar of their power. Many voices from different sectors and segments of public opinion were all too eager to stigmatize those who criticized or questioned a model that promised to drive Nicaragua forward but turned out to be destructive nonsense. The main pillar of their power, when they really were powerful, was persuasion and they lost in April 2018. They lost it in the face of a nonviolent rebellion that showcased emblematic characteristics of civil resistance; for example, cognitive liberation, which means that a critical mass of Nicaraguans realized that we live in unjust conditions and that we can change them through collective action; also, the counterproductive consequences of repression, which means that instead of neutralizing the rebellion, the regime’s brutality mobilized public sentiment against it, alienating even Sandinistas and allies.

Ortega and Murillo lost that capability to persuade as journalism and the citizenry came together. The independent press amplifies and verifies public voices and demands regarding, for example, the high cost of fuel, precarious work, social security, COVID-19, environmental issues, repression, and other subjects of great public interest. Simultaneously, these voices and demands have grown stronger as they spread through big tech platforms.

This combination of citizen action and journalistic work enabled the whole country to wake up when, in April 2018, groups of young people stood up to protest state negligence as the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve burned. It also showed us Ortega’s assault on Social Security, the response of the retirees who were affected, young people’s solidarity, brutal repression, civic rebellion, and later the establishment of a police state. That is why the regime repeatedly tries to silence us, but it will never succeed.

We will build back our production capability with your support

Ortega’s police robbed CONFIDENCIAL for the first time on December 13, 2018. The next day, they occupied the building indefinitely. On May 20, 2021, the police robbed our temporary office and illegally held and interrogated our colleague Leonel Gutiérrez for more than seven hours. This is the second time we must rebuild our production capability after the police steal all our work equipment. Not once have they silenced us. They have never stopped us from publishing and broadcasting our journalism. This has been possible thanks to our team’s commitment and talent, as well as the solidarity and trust from our audiences and colleagues.

Inspired by the show of support we have received, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to replace one high-end computer for video editing and two video cameras. We want to show the regime that the solidarity and trust of our audiences will be there as many times as necessary to rebuild our production capability after each attack because they know we fight tooth and nail to defend the truth. We are the total opposite of their propaganda outlets that finance falsehood with the fruits of corruption.

It is necessary to continue strengthening the bond between journalism and the citizenry. Even if the regime wobbles atop brute force, its last pillar, there is no way to predict how much longer we must resist. Together, freedoms of press and expression constitute an indispensable pillar to continue facing this dictatorship until we reach a new opportunity for democracy. More importantly, this pillar is indispensable if we are to do better with this opportunity than with those we have wasted in the past.

It is a shared responsibility. As media outlets, we must be accountable to our audiences, empowering them through participation in decision-making. And our audiences must seek reliable information and use it to make better decisions, making the most of the quality content for which so many media outlets and journalists risk everything. They must also support media outlets and journalists according to their possibilities, sharing and recommending content, contributing information and opinions, subscribing or donating, among others. Nurturing this symbiosis is a way to resist the dictatorship’s illegitimate power and to build the true citizen power that we are missing.

General Manager at CONFIDENCIAL*

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial

We need your support 

CONFIDENCIAL invites you to join a crowdfunding campaign to replace one high-end computer for video editing and two video cameras, stolen by the National Police on May 20. You can do so by joining our Membership Program or making a donation through PayPal, a secure platform for our readers. Thank you for being part of this collective effort. 


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