NICARAGUA There have been no serious cases of press freedom violations in this period. Events of note were: Since mid-August, the Tax Directorate and since September, the Customs Directorate suspended their advertising in the daily La Prensa. These two major government agencies continued advertising in two other newspapers in what constituted a violation of press freedom and specifically point number 7 of the Declaration of ChapuJtepec. La Prensa protested this discrimination in a letter to the presidential press secretary, and since then the situation has improved, even though the apportioning of government advertising is still unfavorable to La Prensa. Nicaragua's president said he would meet with La Prensa representatives to deal with this matter. Due to a national emergency, however, this meeting still has not taken place. The Mexican company Z-Gas placed a lien on the assets of Telenica CanalS television station to the value of 13 million cordobas (about $1.2 million) after it sued the TV company for damages and economic losses stemming from the station's broadcast of the "100% Noticias" program. The show reported that a Z-Gas truck had been seized with two tons of drugs aboard in the United States. A Canal 5 reporter said the journalists had based their information on the U.S. program "60 Minutes." Canal 5 editor Carlos Briceno told reporters that Telenica had followed up the news with the branch of Z-Gas in Nicaragua, whose representatives declined to comment on the television report. The lien on the station is aimed at preventing the stripping of the TV station's assets. Briceno was named the guarantor for the assets, a move that kept Canal S on the air. Generally speaking, lawsuits for damages and losses in Nicaragua are brought after a plalntiff wins a criminal case because the verdict in itself is evidence of guilt and clears the way to determine the damages due to the complainant. Z-Gas' lawsuit has various new elements. In the first place, it is brought by a foreign company and secondly the custom in Nicaragua is to seek a fine as punishment in libel cases. No one recalls another lawsuit against a news organization that sought compensation for damages and losses. On Sept. 30, 1998, Z-Gas brought criminal charges for libel in a legal process that requires a conciliatory stage in which an out-of-court settlement is expected. A state of siege was declared because of Hurricane Mitch, but it did not affect freedom of expression.