The Nicaraguan Supreme Court has yet to rule on a petition dating from April 4, 2002, which challenges the constitutionality of the law establishing the Nicaraguan Journalists Association. Nor has it ruled on a separate constitutional challenge, brought by representatives of various media outlets on July 7, 2005, against a tax reform package eliminating the constitutionally guaranteed tax-exempt status of media outlets. The legislative representations of three opposition parties had pledged to reform the tax laws but have not yet done so, and the tax reform bill has been effectively set aside. The government has been placing the bulk of its advertising with media outlets owned by the first family or with those that are supportive or docile toward the administration, while discriminating against critical or independent outlets. This has a severe impact on small media outlets that have come to depend on government advertising for their survival. In addition, the government is forgoing bidding processes and granting contracts to companies linked to the ruling party or family members. An investigation by the television program “Esta Semana” (This Week), headed by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, found that between March 2007 and March 2008 the Nicaraguan electric company ENEL paid more than 4 million córdobas (about US$200,000) for ad time on Channel 4, owned by the Ortega-Murillo first family; Radio Ya; and Radio Sandino. ENEL has claimed that its financial difficulties jeopardize its ability to provide energy, yet no ENEL-related ads have been seen or heard. According to advertising companies’ estimates, the government spends some 10 million dollars on television, billboard, radio, and newspaper ads, and 80% of this amount goes to privately owned media outlets linked to the ruling family. After the killer of journalist Carlos Guadamuz was released from prison, steps have been taken in the Supreme Court to seek the release of the killer of La Prensa reporter José Bravo — an effort which has been denounced by the independent media. On October 10, prosecutor Douglas Vargas and police agents, wielding a search warrant that alleged no specific crime, broke the locks on the front gate of the offices of the Communication Research Center (known by the acronym CINCO), which is headed by journalists Carlos Fernando Chamorro and Sofía Montenegro. Chamorro runs two television programs and edits a weekly newspaper. Accounting records and computers were seized from CINCO’s offices and from those of the Autonomous Women’s Movement. Both of these NGOs were charged with “triangulation of funds,” but several months later these charges were dropped by prosecutors and the seized items were returned. The case was then moved to the Interior Ministry. Political and business leaders, human rights advocates, and NGO leaders denounced these raids as a form of persecution and a threat to press freedom. On November 15, 2008, Judge Léstther Mendoza found Jaime Chamorro, as editor of La Prensa, guilty of injurias (insulting or offensive words or actions) against the sons of the president of the Nicaraguan water and sewage authority. A sentence has not yet been handed down. The charges had been pressed by the Citizen Power Councils, and both Chamorro and newsroom editor Eduardo Enríquez were convicted of injurias. The conviction has been appealed, and the appeal is still pending. After the municipal elections on November 9, 2008, the alliance of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) with the “Vamos con Eduardo” Movement claimed massive fraud, but the Supreme Electoral Council ruled that the Sandinista National Liberation Front had won 105 of 146 mayoral posts, including in Managua. The alliance alleged fraud in at least 40 municipalities. Large demonstrations were held to denounce the electoral fraud but were violently repressed. On November 16, the alliance called a demonstration in the city of León, which had been the scene of large-scale fraud. The FSLN’s shock troops took control of the city and its access roads. “If they’re from La Prensa, El Nuevo Diario, or Channel 2, we’ll mess them up,” threatened the shock troops while standing in front of bonfires of burning tires. The shock troops, concealed by hoods and displaying the ironic slogan “Love and Reconciliation,” went so far as to open up car doors and search the vehicles while pledging to “defend the victory.” All day long they prevented reporters from La Prensa, El Nuevo Diario, and Channel 2 from entering the city. Miguel Álvarez, a photographer for an international press agency; Germán Miranda, a photographer for La Prensa; and Ary Neil Pantoja, a photographer for El Nuevo Diario, were assaulted. On November 12, journalist Nicolás Berríos from the pro-government radio station Radio Ya was stabbed and the vehicle in which he was traveling was set ablaze. On November 18, a group of 40 pro-government agitators — wearing hoods, armed with guns, and inflamed by the march in León against electoral fraud — completely destroyed the studios of León’s three most popular radio stations: Radio Darío, Radio Metro Estéreo, and Radio Caricias, all of them members of the Western Radio Station Association. This is the fifth time that pro-Ortega forces have destroyed Radio Darío. Station manager Aníbal Toruño blamed the FSLN and legislator Filiberto Rodríguez for the attack. Assailants with their faces covered used rocks to vandalize a vehicle belonging to Channel 2. The vehicle had been left parked by reporters covering a march. At the march, a group of PLC supporters insulted, pushed, and attempted to throw rocks at journalists Antenor Peña and Geovani Loáisiga of pro-government Channel 4 for reporting that the vehicle had been burned by PLC supporters. Octavio Sevilla of pro-government Nueva Radio Ya and Reuters photographer Oswaldo Rivas were also assaulted. Adding to this atmosphere of intimidation against journalists is a comment made by Attorney General Hernán Estrada, who said on November 13 that if President Ortega “decided to call people out to the streets, no stone would be left unturned in this country at any radio station, any television station, or any media outlet, but thankfully he hasn’t done it out of patience and composure.” At the February 21 conference of the Nicaraguan Journalists Association, a draft version of the organization’s Journalistic Code of Ethics was presented. This document was put forward as binding on all journalists and media outlets in Nicaragua, and calls on the government to pass a law regulating information, a proposal opposed by independent media outlets. Neither of these two points was approved, but they were referred to an ethics committee chaired by a legislator of the ruling party, the FSLN. Xóchil Ocampo, a legislator for the Sandinista party, said she will press charges against the PLC legislators who told the press that she sought to make indecent proposals to secure votes for the Daniel Ortega administration in the National Assembly. Ocampo’s attorney only mentioned journalists, editors, and directors of Channel 2, Channel 8, El Nuevo Diario, and La Prensa. A mission headed by IAPA president Enrique Santos Calderón visited Nicaragua on January 26 and 27, but the mission was not received by President Ortega.