24 April 2008

IAPA concerned at setbacks to press freedom


IAPA concerned at setbacks to press freedom in Nicaragua


Miami (April 24, 2008).- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed concern today at a series of actions and views uttered by the government in Nicaragua that are stifling freedom of the press in the Central American country.


The latest development, which caused widespread reaction there for what was seen as a political move contrary to press freedom, was the conviction by a court on April 22 of Jaime Chamorro Cardenal, the editor of La Prensa, and Eduardo Enríquez, the paper’s managing editor, on libel charges. They were sentenced to a fine of 27,000 córdobas (approximately $1,407) and ordered to immediately publish the verdict without comment. La Prensa filed notice of appeal.


The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, declared, “Quite apart from the lawsuit in itself, what concerns us is that a pattern of government conduct can be clearly seen, made worse by the lack of independence of some judges, as evidenced by the restriction or punishment of news media and individual journalists.”


Marroquín said that La Prensa, together with other independent media, has lately been the target of attacks emanating from government circles. “In recent months,” he added “the IAPA has been complaining of limits placed on the delivery of supplies for the production of newspapers, certain customs duties pressures and an ongoing discrimination in the placement of government advertising in favor of the official media, as well as attacks upon journalists.”


Chamorro and Enríquez were found guilty on April 17, 2008 of libeling five female members of the Citizens’ Power Councils (CPC in its Spanish acronym), linked to the government party and headed by Nicaragua’s First Lady, Rosario Murillo. The judge of the Managua 8th Circuit Criminal Court, Celso Urbina, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who claimed to have been offended by a story published on December 19 last year titled “CPC Has a License to Beat Up.” The article spoke of attacks upon La Prensa reporter Jorge Losáiga, but did not name the alleged attackers, who then filed suit against the newspaper, arguing that they had been offended, exposed to ridicule and called hooligans.


The court ruling was criticized as violating freedom of the press and free speech in Nicaragua and brought reaction from numerous local quarters, among them private sector organizations, national congressmen, opposition leaders, members of various religious denominations and social groups, journalists and news media.