Freedom of Expression

Press release R163/22

Nicaragua must cease persecution of independent press and be held accountable for its actions

July 15, 2022

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the escalating repression by authorities against journalists and media outlets in Nicaragua. The Rapporteur’s Office urges the State to cease persecution, intimidation and harassment against the independent press that reports on matters of public interest, including the human rights crisis, and to reestablish full guarantees to exercise the right to freedom of expression.

In recent weeks, this Office has received information about an increase in police raids on journalists' residences and media facilities, raids, confiscation of media outlets, seizure of work equipment, displacement and forced exile of journalists. These actions undertaken by the State seek to silence the press and control any speech that questions or contradicts official voices, undermining basic guarantees for the exercise of fundamental freedoms.

On July 7, 2022, the newspaper La Prensa denounced a persecution against its journalistic team, including drivers, photographers and reporters. According to the information reported, on the night of Wednesday, July 6, two of its reporters were arbitrarily detained and subsequently transferred to the prison of Nuevo Chipote, with no evidence of compliance with judicial guarantees. According to public information, the actions taken against the newspaper are linked to its coverage of the expulsion of the religious order Misioneras de la Caridad de Nicaragua by the government, following the cancellation of its legal status on June 29. In this context, La Prensa demanded that the government "respect the laws," "free the detainees" and "cease the persecution against the staff of the newspaper" because "they are only doing their job, without committing any crime."

In the last month, this Office has also received information about the closure and confiscation of the Trinchera de la Noticia portal, which would become the fourth media outlet shut down in Nicaragua since the outbreak of the crisis in April 2018. The media would have been closed "for disturbing social peace and refusing to present information in the established time or presenting it incompletely or inaccurately," according to the resolution of the Judiciary that dissolved the entity. Likewise, public reports indicated that at least three media outlets in Nicaragua had cut their coverage of political issues as a result of government threats to close them down.

In addition to these facts, there are serious reports of an increase in the number of journalists and communicators in displacement and forced exile due to the growing fear of reprisals, which can range from police siege of their homes, threats to their families and even criminalization with exorbitant penalties. The Rapporteurship notes with concern the impact that this wave of repression has on women journalists, who find themselves in a double situation of vulnerability, since in addition to the aforementioned attacks for the exercise of their journalistic work, they are also disproportionately affected and are targets of gender-based reprisals.

As the Rapporteur’s Office has previously stated, the evidence gathered indicates that there is currently no guarantee whatsoever to exercise the right to freedom of expression in Nicaragua. Faced with this situation, SRFOE urges the State to put an end to the escalation of repression and to guarantee the right of journalists to report without pressure or interference in their work. The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that it is the duty of the State to promote, respect and guarantee the right of all persons to express their opinions or ideas by any means and without fear of being persecuted, punished or stigmatized for it; to participate in the public debate to encourage and enrich it; and to access relevant information to exercise the political control that makes a true democracy possible.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.