NICARAGUA Press freedom in Nicaragua has been affected by a number of developments, among them the fact that newly-elected PresidentArnaoldo Aleman Lacayo radically changed his policy concerning placement of official advertising and that of autonomous state entities. Less than a month after taking office, Aleman declared that governmental advertising would be handled in "a coherent and rational" way, although he said that the advertising budget would be cut for austerity reasons. President Aleman declared that as part of this plan, he would assign all state advertising to five advertising agencies, although according to the affected agencies, only three really control the governmental share of the pie. Aleman ordered all ministries, government businesses and autonomous state entities to work exclusively with the designated advertising agencies, without taking into account bids or professional criteria in the choice of agency. Aleman denied any intention to use official advertising as a political instrument. However, Sandinista Party (FSLN) media such as the newspaper Banicada received a very reduced portion of official advertising since Aleman took office; Channel 4 television declared that it had not been allocated even a minute of governmental advertising. Other pro-Sandinista media also had difficulty in receiving state advertising. They include the news program "EXTRAVISION," run by former Sandinista Information Secretary Manuel Espinoza Enriquez and Radio Sandino. In its June 6, 1997, edition, the newspaper Banicada spoke out against discrimination in the placement of official advertising, asserting that from January 10 to date, it had not received even 5 % of the official advertising allocated to the country's four newspapers. Banicada president and publisher Tomas Borge asserted in a letter that on October 6, 1997, "the government had allocated 32,881 column inches (of official advertising) in the country's four newspapers, of which Banicada has received 7 %, that is, 7 % of the total." A Communications Ministry official said that since Banicada is owned by the FSLN political party, it is an official mouthpiece of this party and not committed to true and objective information, but to the FSLN party-line. He added that the FSLN on several occasions has publicly proposed the overthrow of the constitutional government of Aleman, elected democratically by the majority of the Nicaraguan people. A group of advertising executives, editors of media affected by the government policy, and National Assembly representatives headed by Sandinista delegation deputy chief Victor Hugo Tinoco met in July to discuss the possibilities of drawing up legal and legislative proposals on the subject. Tinoco said that such proposals" could lead to a legislative initiative to regulate use of public funds slated for official advertising." Since that date, no such proposal has been made in the National Assembly nor has any bill been introduced to regulate the placement of official advertising. On March 21, 1997, Liberal Party representative and National Assembly Secretary Lombardo Martinez Cabezas proposed legislation to punish the crime of "contempt" after Sandinista Channel 4 television program "La Camara Matizona" made fun of him. Martinez argued that despite the dreadful government abuses in the past against press freedom, it would be convenient to establish "contempt" as a criminal offense. The media strongly criticized the proposal and it was squashed. El Nuevo Diario journalist Moises Gonzalez suffered a head injury during street riots in July. A group of demonstrators supporting students who were demanding a larger budget for the universities began to throw rocks at journalists and hit Gonzalez. The street riots, which lasted almost the entire month of July, were said to be provoked by students and Sandinista activists. On one occasion, the police stopped a bus in which students were riding and found Molotov cocktails, rocket-launchers and other arms. On July 10, a caravan with members ofthe Sandinista organization National Workers' Front (FTN) drove past by La Prensa newspaper offices and fired off several mortar shells that landed near a gas station. The caravan had a police escort.