Nicaragua’s independent journalism under attack

Nicaragua’s independent journalism under attack

Published on 28 Sep 2023

Internet has become the only space for dissidents

Since 2018, independent journalism has been subject to attacks and censorship by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The exile of more than 200 journalists, the closure of almost 60 media outlets, the confiscation of media outlets, denationalization, banishment, physical attacks, judicialization and self-censorship, are some of the aggressions experienced.


Despite the attempts of Ortega and Murillo to impose silence, independent journalism in Nicaragua does not give up or shut up, it emerges on the Internet and social networks so that the voice of those who control and will continue to control power, even more so the authoritarian power, is not extinguished.


The latest attack


The most recent attack against the media did not come from Daniel Ortega but from the chief of the Nicaraguan Army, Julio César Avilés Castillo, who described journalists as “information mercenaries”, who “constantly clamor for more aggressions, the wrongly called sanctions against the Homeland and our Institution, according to them! they ask for more aggressions against the Institution so that we react, react to what, to give a Coup d’Etat to the legitimately constituted government, as they have intended since 2018?”


In his address, the Army chief answered himself that they will never give a coup d’état. “Our answer is firm and clear: we will never do it, we will never do it, because we are patriots and we will never do it because we are not coup plotters!”


In May 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the head of the Nicaraguan Army for refusing to “order the disabling and dismantling of paramilitary or “para-police” forces during and after the political uprisings that began on April 18, 2018.


Journalists react


Avilés’ insults provoked rejection in social networks from journalists, as well as from organizations promoting freedom of expression and press, as well as from the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Pedro Vaca, who tweeted: “The remarks of General Julio César Avilés, head of the Armed Forces, ratify censorship in Nicaragua. My rejection to the military stigmatization of the press and my solidarity with those who continue to do journalism”.


For its part, the organization Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua (PCIN), created in December 2018 in the context of increasing attacks on journalists, fears that this hate speech by Avilés will increase hostility and violence against independent journalism in Nicaragua.


In fact, days after the creation of PCIN, the ruling party formed the Movement of Patriotic Communicators, which has been responsible for reproducing stigmatizing speeches and requesting jail against independent journalists.


What is being said online


At ProBox we conducted a search on the digital conversation on Instagram, Facebook and X (former Twitter) using some keywords such as: persecution and harassment against journalists in Nicaragua, “Ortega’s regime persecutes journalists”, “journalists imprisoned in Nicaragua” and also the group backed by the regime called “Movimiento de Comunicadores Patrióticos” (Movement of Patriotic Communicators).


We managed to obtain 496 mentions from August 16 to September 16, highlighting September 9 which concentrated 13.10% of the registered mentions. In addition, nothing was registered on Instagram about these keywords, being mostly distributed between Facebook (91.94%) and X (8.06%).


The peak of the conversation occurred after the International Day of Journalists, when civil society and supporters of the regime reacted to the insults issued by Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, reported on Facebook. Some of the tags used by citizens were #DerechoAInformar (Right to Inform), #SOSNicaragua and #LibertadYa (Freedom Now). Likewise, media outlets such as Despacho 505 published, also on Facebook, articles denouncing the persecution against journalists, reporting more than 1,329 attacks on press freedom in the last five years.


Journalists’ Day: something to celebrate?


On September 8, the International Day of Journalists was commemorated. In Nicaragua, journalism celebrates its dignity and resistance along with the denunciation of the wave of attacks it has experienced and continues to experience.


Currently, journalists Víctor Ticay, Sergio Castilblanco and Adela Espinoza are being held in prison for political reasons. At least 14 journalists have been stripped of their property, Nicaraguan nationality and citizenship rights, and more than a dozen have been prevented from entering Nicaragua, forcing them into exile.


More than 200 journalists have been forced to go into exile in Costa Rica, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador to preserve their integrity and freedom.


The murder of journalist Angel Gahona, which occurred on April 21, 2018 while he was broadcasting the protests in Bluefields via Facebook Live, remains in impunity, just like all physical attacks, committed against journalists.


Nicaragua’s independent journalism, in and far from its homeland, remains in resistance!


For more information on socio-political manipulation online you can follow us on all social networks as @ProBoxVE


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