After months of crackdowns on demonstrators, journalists and other political targets, the administration of President Danny Ortega of Nicaragua is under increasing pressure from international observers. This week, journalists and press freedom advocates from around the world sent an open letter to the President, in which they “strongly condemn the December raids on the offices of two major independent news outlets, and the detention of Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau,” and call for “their immediate release.” The authors and signatories also make sure to point to other “disturbing examples” of repression, including the expulsion of two OAS-backed investigative bodies and the state raids against Confidencial, a major Nicaraguan news outlet.
Daniel Ortega Saavedra, Presidente de la República de Nicaragua
Rosario Murillo Zambrana, Vicepresidenta de la República de Nicaragua
Presidencia de la República
Frente a Palacio Nacional
4 Calle Noroeste
Managua, Nicaragua 11001
January 7, 2019
To President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo:
We are journalists and press freedom advocates from Latin America and around the world who view recent developments in your country with deep concern. We write to express alarm over the recent escalation of aggression against media outlets and journalists covering civil unrest and documenting human rights abuses by police and paramilitary groups.
We strongly condemn the December raids on the offices of two major independent news outlets, and the detention of Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau, journalists from independent cable and digital channel 100% Noticias, on multiple anti-state charges. These latest anti-press actions occurred shortly before the Christmas holiday, when many in the international community might typically be distracted; however, they did not go unnoticed.
Mora and Pineda, arrested during a December 21 police raid on the 100% Noticias offices in Managua and rushed through court appearances with no access to legal representation, stand accused of crimes including “inciting violence and hate” and “promoting terrorism.” The government has not presented any evidence to date to support the charges against these journalists, who took a lead role in their channel’s critical reporting over the last eight months. More than two weeks after their arrest, both journalists remain in pre-trial detention, and their channel is still banned from broadcasting.
Just a week before the raid on 100% Noticias, riot police ransacked the Managua offices of independent news website Confidencial and two affiliated television programs, all led by renowned journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and confiscated equipment and documents.
These are just the latest hostile acts capping off a year that saw dozens of attacks on the media, including the April 20 arson attack on Radio Darío in León and the April 21 death of reporter Ángel Eduardo Gahona, who was shot and killed on camera while reporting on protests in Bluefields.
The recent expulsion of two independent monitoring bodies set up by the Organization of American States (OAS) the day before one group was set to release a report on human rights violations during protests last spring is another disturbing example of your government’s disregard for transparency and international human rights norms.
We call for the immediate release of Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau, and an end to actions designed to intimidate and shut down independent media. The office of the president, which exerts control over almost all aspects of government, must order police to stop raiding newsrooms, return all seized equipment and documents, and allow news outlets to work without fear of violent reprisal, interference, or arrest.
We call on you to respect international guarantees for freedom of expression and to cease harassing the independent press. A free and independent media is vital to the functioning of a healthy democratic society, in Nicaragua and throughout the Americas.