NICARAGUA Although the concept of freedom of the press exists in Nicaragua, there are certain problems that could affect it. On July 4, 1995, constitutional reforms went into effect, including establishment of "right of reply." The fourth paragraph of reformed Article 68 reads textually: "Nicaraguans have right of access to the media and the right to reply when their rights and guarantees are affected." The amended text eliminates the "populist" and "communist" character of the 1987 constitution which also contains, among other provisions, one which declares, "The state will promote access of the people and their organizations to the media." Another achievement for press freedom is that the reforms specifically exempt the media from all muniCipal, regional or national treasury taxes on newsprint, machinery and equipment. The exemption applies to both broadcast and print media, as well as to publishers of books, pamphlets and academic materials. However, one serious threat to freedom of the press in Nicaragua is a bill that would institute licensing of journalists. The measure is ready for debate in the National Assembly, but it is not expected to pass because of opposition by the Nicaraguan Journalists Association (APN). The bill was drafted by the Nicaraguan Journalists Union (UPN). The APN outlined its opposition to the bill in a letter to the IAPA. In the letter, APN declared that: "The APN disagrees with the licensing of journalists because it affects press freedom and the freedom of association. This is particularly important at a time that Nicaraguan society remains polarized, divided. The APN disagrees with the bill because it would permit Sandinista journalism to control the leadership of the organization through their greater numbers. However, the APN agrees that the establishment of a code of professional ethics would facilitate the daily tasks of journalists." Another important factor in predicting that the bill will not be approved is that it establishes a tax of three percent on advertising. This charge is too high for advertisers and the media in the context of the present economic criSis. Legal matters affecting press freedom include a suit filed by Gixa Torres, press chief of Radio Ya, against El Nuevo Diario and its editor Xavier Chamorro C. Both media are Sandinista, but represent different wings of the party. The suit was filed after El Nuevo Diario published a memorandum signed by Torres, which she claims is not authentic. Judge Rosario Peralta, of the Third Local Court, found El Nuevo Diario and its editor guilty and fined them U.S. $10,000. She ordered the newspaper to print a retraction and to pay the fine before being allowed to appeal. The newspaper subsequently appealed the case to District Judge Dr. Eloisa Arana, the immediate superior of the local judge. She ordered that the case could be appealed before the fine was paid. Later, Torres' lawyer presented a claim against Dr. Arana, claiming that her decision was a political one. At this writing, the judge has not permitted the appeal of El Nueva Diaria to be filed. A lawsuit for calumny and injury was filed against La Tribuna editor Haroldo Montealegre by the Property Registrar of Managua, Dr. Luis Angel Martinez. The official had been accused of crimes of bribery, tax fraud and blackmail. A judge forbid Montealegre to leave the country because he had not shown up at two court hearings to answer the charges. In Montealegre's opinion, the court order was issued as intimidation of La Tribuna and to prevent him from attending the IAPA meeting. In regard to press-government relations, former Vice President Dr. Sergio Ramirez Mercado sent a letter May 16 to President Violeta B. de Chamorro, declaring that he was censored on the state-owned television channel. Ramirez contended that the Presidency prohibited broadcast of his interview scheduled for the cultural program, "This is Nicaragua." Presidential Media Chief Mario F. Amador A. denied the charges in a letter of reply to Dr. Ramirez Mercado May 17. Amador explained that the program was suspended because of the live transmission of baseball game in the semifinals of the national championship. In an additional matter, the APN complains that the government punishes certain media, particularly small and medium-sized publications, by unfair allotment of official advertising. The government has said that its official advertising is decentralized in the ministries and autonomous government entities, and that each decides the placement of its official advertising. The editor and publisher of the newspaperNavedades declared that journalist Flor de Maria Leets had her arm broken when she was assaulted by a policeman reportedly Acting on orders of Byron Jerez, advisor and supporter of presidential candidate Arnaldo Aleman. The June 24 attack was seen to be retaliation for criticism expressed in Navedades of Aleman's candidacy.