In this period the government continued to attempt to silence the independent news media through repression, the withholding of information and constant harassment. The political conflict sparked by the Sandinista government in its bid for re-election was the most notable development in these last six months. After President Daniel Ortega failed to obtain the votes he needed in the National Assembly – the only body authorized to amend the Constitution – judges belonging to the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party in the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Division on October 19 issued a ruling declaring inapplicable Article 147 of the Constitution, which prohibits continual re-election of the president, as well as the possibility of being elected to a third term. That unusual ruling is added to massive fraud in the November 2008 municipal elections, which, in addition to worsening the economy due to the fact it discouraged international investments and led to foreign governments cutting off their financial aid, increased the number of threats against the press. Analysts predict that the years leading up to national elections will be stormy ones for the independent news media and for those who oppose Ortega’s re-election. On October 17, days before the ruling, government officials belonging to the ALBA, agreed to set up a mechanism to keep an eye on the news media, in order to counter what they called “the media war” and to review laws on communication and information. The Bishop of Chontales, Msgr. René Sándigo, in a statement in Miami, Florida, in October, appears to have summarized what is happening in the country. “Nicaragua has stalled in its democratic process. There is an atmosphere of putting conditions on the news media, on private institutions, on the Church, conditions that are not necessarily direct repression but which in some way go against the nation’s well-being,” he declared. On June 19 the broadcast frequency of Radio La Ley in Sébaco, a city 67 miles north of the capital, Managua, was cancelled. More than 30 armed civilians seized the equipment there, an action contrary to Article 68 of the Constitution, which bans seizing equipment from the media, and Law 670, which extended all broadcast licenses until new legislation on telecommunications is adopted. The IAPA said it was surprised by the use of force and felt it could have been in reprisal for criticism of the government by the radio’s owner, Santiago Aburto, on his program on Radio Corporación. On August 8 Mario Sánchez Paz, a journalist with Coordinadora Civil, and other members of that organization were attacked physically by mobs of government supporters backed by employees of the Managua Mayor’s Office and other government institutions. Also beaten up during the incident were Iván Larios, Luisa Molina and Adolfo Acevedo. Mario Sanchez, who was taking photos of the attacks, had his nose broken. The police did not intervene. In another demonstration of intolerance toward the independent press, the government sponsored the creation of a “Sandinista Journalists Forum,” in which many journalists sympathetic to the government took part. The forum has been held a number of times to discuss how to confront what they call “the media dictatorship.” The first forum was in September, with a presentation by journalist Consuelo Sandoval, sent over the Internet with a letter from First Lady Rosario Murillo under the title “Enemies of Nicaragua and the Journalists.” In it, it was said that “the news media bosses have become out-and-out enemies of Nicaragua.” In these forums Sandinista ideologue and former diplomat Aldo Diz Lacayo invited “squeeze your brains so as to find the equivalent of ownership of broadcast frequencies in the print media,” saying that would ensure control of the print media and freedom of expression. That same day, within the framework of the forum “Journalists’ Social Commitment” news men and women from several independent media criticized Ortega’s “dictatorial pretensions” and declared that to seek to control the print media would be to lessen democracy and freedom of expression. A legislative bill to reform the Journalists Guild, submitted by Sandinista Representative and Chair of the Guild’s Ethics Committee, Martha Marina González, ratifies the requirement that one belong to that body in order to work as a journalist. The current law is contradictory on that point – in one article it establishes that a press pass is needed to work as a journalist and in another it says that belonging to the Guild is voluntary. The worst thing is that the draft bill would leave the ability to take up, investigate and punish non-observance to the members’ Ethics and Honor committees, decisions that would only be appealable to the National Ethics and Honor Committee, going no further than that. The draft bill was not raised with the members of the Guild and received an immediate adverse reaction from the journalists. Representatives from different parties said that the reform should not contain the requirement of Guild membership and they would not support it. Marina González announced that she intends to set up a discussion forum on the issue. There have been four sabotage attacks upon Radio El Pensamiento radio station, with its broadcast cables being cut and stolen. Another station reported an attack upon Radio Corporación linked to a dispute with the Managua Mayor’s Office over a public area on the highway opposite its building. Meanwhile, the government is continuing with its attempts to financially strangle the weakest media, harassing them and denigrating them so as to destroy their credibility. A survey by M&R Consultores consulting firm indicated that 58.9% of Nicaraguans believe the government attacks the media in order to control them. Another survey, published in El Nuevo Diario in April 2009, titled “Nicaraguans Censor Themselves,” showed a 23% increase from February 2007 to February 2009 in the number of persons who do not want to talk and from 39% to 68% of those who fear making political comments in public places. Many small media are at risk due to discrimination in the placement of official advertising. However, Canal 4 television, owned by the governing family, exclusively contracted the broadcast of United States baseball playoffs, paying some $360,000. In those broadcasts the channel airs government spots in which First Lady Murillo and President Ortega appear. Publicists consulted said the lack of privately-owned companies’ ads is due to the channel’s small audience and advertisers’ fear of their brands being associated with the government.