Public Employees: "They Control Everything We Say on Social Media"

Government workers banned from talking about Sheynnis Palacios and celebrating her Miss Universe win, "people have even been fired for posting memes"


12 de diciembre 2023


Enrique says he's been having nightmares for several days. Most of the dreams involve police officers. He explains that "he is feeling very paranoid and afraid," a sensation that, according to him, he shares with the majority of government employees due to the wave of dismissals, constant interrogations and imprisonments prescribed by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. But added to that is a new form of control: social media. 

"We knew they were watching us, but in the last few weeks they have started being more vigilant of our social media accounts. They monitor everything we do personally, and now also virtually," says Enrique.

This young man, who works in an office of the Judiciary branch in Managua, says there are several people "who have been fired for posting something on social media that provokes [the regime's] discomfort."

Enrique describes the work environment as challenging because "you don't know what you can and can't say on social media." Some workers have even stopped posting or have simply closed their accounts. 

"But even doing that can provoke [their] ire. With these people, you never know," he warns.

Even memes are banned

Since April 2018, the Ortega-Murillo regime has imposed a reign of terror on public employees. Workers raising their voices, demanding their rights, or criticizing the government is unthinkable. But social media, which was, for many, "an escape valve," is now an increasingly dangerous terrain. 

"In my case, I only had Facebook, but at the insistence of my bosses I had to create a Twitter [now X] account in 2018, because we were urged [to post there] in order to gain ground on social media at a time when the complaints of [human rights] violations were being reported by thousands of Nicaraguans," Enrique explains.

Enrique recalls that one of his office colleagues was threatened during the COVID-19 pandemic for posting about taking precautions to avoid getting infected. In a meeting, they showed him his Facebook posts and accused him of being a "traitor." He became so afraid that he left Nicaragua a few weeks later. 

"They've fired people just for publishing memes," says Enrique, who believes that the level of control the dictatorship is trying to impose "is crazy." 

Enrique also says that most of the hundreds of workers dismissed from the Judiciary had their personal phones confiscated. "We assume that they have been checking everything the workers had on [their phones], from calls and photos to social media," he added.

Miss Universe: a prohibited topic

After more than 12 years of working for the Ministry of Education, Marcela, a schoolteacher in southern Nicaragua, says she is bothered by the fact that teachers can't express themselves freely "about any subject." 

"There are some who have been issued warnings for posting photos of Catholic processions. The most recent thing is that we've been banned from talking about Miss Universe," Marcela complains. 

Sheynnis Palacios in one of her official photographs as Miss Universe 2023. //Photo: Miss Universe

Marcela says that when Sheynnis Palacios was crowned Miss Universe on the night of November 18, many people took to the streets to celebrate and post on social media. "I was one of them. We went out in a caravan through several municipalities because we felt it was such an immense joy for all of Nicaragua," she explains. 

However, she says that the dictatorship's discourse has changed, and that they went from "pretending to celebrate, to actually threatening" anyone who spoke on the subject.

"They have even imprisoned the Sandinista Tik Toker 'Tropi Kong' for having criticized the presenters on a pro-government [TV] channel. With that you understand that in the dictators' eyes no one can criticize, not even the servile ones who kiss their feet," says Marcela

In her case, Marcela chose to make all her Facebook posts private. "But nothing guarantees that there isn't surveillance by someone who might want to inform on me, so I have deleted [a lot of] posts and I have chosen to not post almost anything," she laments. 

Marcela comments that some fellow teachers have taken on pseudonyms or created new accounts on social media. "But the fear of being watched in some way is always there," she insists. 

A spy in every office

"In our offices there are people watching us, in our computers they've installed programs to spy on us, our social media is being watched all the time. Although they don't admit it, it's obvious that it happens," says Raul, a government employee in Managua.

Although he considers himself a Sandinista, Raul says he is disappointed in the "hijacking" of the party by the Ortega Murillo family. 

Raul says that on several occasions the staff has been summoned to a session to receive talks on social media. "But what they're doing is telling us that we have to post government propaganda because according to them, we have to share all the good news with the people," he recalls. 

However, he says there are also many other stories of layoffs over the course of the 10 years he has been working for the government. 

"One woman was fired because she shared a meme of Chayo [Rosario Murillo], and another because she shared a photo with a joke about Daniel Ortega," recalls Raul. However, he adds that "none of the posts were offensive."

For Raul, the dictatorship "has no sense of humor" and "they want to have control over us, in how we think and even what we say, whether in the street, at home, at work, or on social media." 

Regime asks for families' social media account info  

In mid-2023, government workers began to receive home visits from the dictatorship's political operators to confirm if they were still Sandinista "militants" (members) and to ask them about their involvement in marches and party activities.

CONFIDENCIAL reported that these visits were made to the homes of public employees who in 2020 had been pressured to get themselves and their family members accredited as Sandinista party militants. "Last year, in June, we received information that government workers were required to get five more people signed up, so now they were checking to see if they are still active," said a source from the Blue and White Monitoring Group. 

Then in mid-November 2023, it was reported on social media and via independent media outlets that the dictatorship is forcing all state workers, as well as current party members, to fill out a "single registration form" to obtain militancy status in the context of the upcoming 45th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. 

The registration form requires applicants to provide information such as telephone numbers, email addresses, and social media account information for Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok. They also ask for academic information, work experience, history with the party, and socioeconomic data. 

Whoever fills out the form must also provide the same information about their spouses, children and siblings, including whether or not they are in the country. 

For Enrique, Marcela and Raul, all this indicates that the party "wants to control and know everything about every worker" and their close family circles."They distrust all of us, but on top of that, monitoring our children or siblings is a way to intimidate us, to tell us that tomorrow they could be taken prisoner. It's a way to measure our loyalty to the government, by checking on what our family members say or do," Enrique denounces.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.


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