Miami (September 2, 2010)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called into question a resolution by Nicaragua’s Labor Ministry that restricts press freedom by stripping the Managua newspaper La Prensa of its autonomy to guarantee circulation after delivery was boycotted distributors in mid-August.
The newspaper complained that the Ministry is forcing it to rehire 23 distributors who were dismissed on August 12 after they blocked 23 distribution routes and cut off 3,500 subscribers in Managua.
Labor Minister Jeannette Chávez accused the paper of a massive and unlawful firing of 23 peoples, some of them members of a supposed La Prensa workers union. The rehiring is currently under administrative review and if it is denied the paper could be fined and ordered to take the distributors back.
La Prensaexecutives opened legal proceedings against the officials arguing that the 23 distributors were not employees therefore no union could exist and, most importantly, they had to hire new distributors to ensure circulation of the paper.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas,declared, “We fear that the pressure applied by the Ministry, before it checked out the details behind La Prensa’s cancellation of its contract with the former distributors, could be a political move with the objective of restricting the freedom of the Nicaraguan people to receive news as well as taking away the newspaper’s independence and autonomy to make business decisions in favor of its clients and readers.”
Paraphrasing the IAPA-inspired Declaration of Chapultepec Rivard said, “Freedom of the press is severely restricted when the media circulation or the dissemination of their reports is blocked and when obstacles to the free flow of information are set up.” He added, “We trust that this is not an underhanded attempt to interfere in the contract process which every company has a right to and that is guaranteed in Nicaragua’s very Constitution.”
The newspaper appealed the Ministry’s resolution on August 18th and is awaiting a decision. If the order to rehire the distributors is upheld La Prensa will take the matter to court.
La Prensabelieves the Minister’s statements are an attempt to require the paper to sign permanent labor contracts with its distributors. It also highlighted that this action comes after accusations and court rulings against its editor, Jaime Chamorro Cardenal, and its news editor, Eduardo Enríquez; following imposition of the Arce Law requiring media to pay unconstitutional taxes; denial of access to public information, and defamatory propaganda campaigns against the newspaper’s executives.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org