A dark shadow has been cast over press freedom in the country by constant threats against reporters investigating ties between drug trafficking and government institutions. La Prensa began publishing a series of reports in May of this year about drug trafficking in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, and the involvement of some high- and low-level police agents. Ever since then, the members of the reporting team — news editor Freddy Potoy, correspondent Sergio León and photographer Francisco Larios — began receiving threats from drug dealers and people close to the police officers involved. After La Prensa published statements by various people in Bluefields alleging that assistant commissioner Oscar Larrave Chamberlain, chief of the local antidrug agency, and other police officials are involved in drug trafficking, a high-level police commission headed by the police inspector general, commissioner Aminta Granera, and assistant director Orlando Aguilera visited Bluefields to investigate the matter. The news editor of La Prensa, Freddy Potoy, received three phone calls from people linked to police officials and lower-level agents threatening him, his son, a sister and her children. On May 8 Potoy received three more calls on his cell phone threatening physical and sexual assault against his sister, Martha Potoy Rosales. Freddy Potoy was told by a mid-level police agent that “there are some police chiefs who want to discredit your professional integrity by resorting to any ‘tactic’ typical of police intelligence. They can also cause an accident in which you would be injured or you would injure someone else, and they would like to see you arrested and tried. They can follow your vehicle in cars, pickup trucks or taxis. They can plant drugs in your pickup truck or have you beaten up by any criminal cooperating with the police.” Participating in the visit by the Granera commission was Denis Tinoco, assistant commissioner and second in charge of Judicial Assistance. Rather than looking into the charges against Larrave, Tinoco showed up at the home of one of the witnesses in order to intimidate and pressure her into withdrawing her statement. On the evening of Saturday, May 24, Sergio León was about to eat dinner at the Club Costeño restaurant in Managua with Walter Treminio, a La Prensa correspondent in Puerto Cabezas, and Tatiana Rothschuh, an editor at the newspaper, when they ran into Kent Hooker, assistant commissioner and assistant police captain in Ciudad Rama, on the country’s southern Atlantic coast. Hooker called León over and whispered to him, “Bluefields is not where you’ll be killed.” Hooker, who was drinking at the time, later told Walter Treminio, “My gun is ready.” The Granera commission reported that it found irregularities involving serious administrative misconduct by four police officials. These officials were fired, and criminal charges are being pursued against the former drug agents through the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office. On May 6, 2003, a jury acquitted Tirso Moreno Aguilar, a former Contra leader who on October 22, 2002 forced his way into the newsroom of La Prensa and, armed with a gun, took several reporters hostage. The jury ignored a great deal of evidence in the case, and gave weight to Moreno’s apology to the journalists and the fact that no one was injured in the incident. On July 31, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of La Prensa in Decision No. 177, overturning the decision of the Treasury Department’s Court of Appeals which had upheld the tax office’s March 2000 ruling ordering the newspaper to pay more than half a million dollars in taxes. The former head of the tax office and former President Arnoldo Alemán, who are now in jail, had been denounced by the newspaper as corrupt, along with others who fled the country. Those statements led to the tax office’s ruling against La Prensa. On the 24th anniversary of the police department, reporters covering the festivities were forced to suspend their news coverage due to the abuse to which several of them were subjected. The police had prepared a roped-off area for reporters covering the event, presumably in order to keep them from interviewing senior police officials and other government figures. Jorge Loáisiga of La Prensa was forced to leave the event premises because he tried to leave the area designated for the reporters. In a separate incident, Aura Torres, a reporter for Canal 12 de TV, was shoved by police officers who physically forced her to return to the designated area. The police later issued an apology. Several news outlets and other organizations, along with the School of Communications at the University of Central America, sponsored by the Violeta B. de Chamorro Foundation, are promoting a freedom of information act in Nicaragua. There has been no decision on the appeal filed with the Supreme Court alleging the unconstitutionality of Law No. 372 (the law creating the Nicaraguan Colegio of Journalists). However, the Colegio is still not functioning due to differences between the two journalists’ unions, which under this law must come to an agreement in order for the Colegio to be formed.