04 April 2014


Due to political developments the state of free information is increasingly less certain. In this period Daniel Ortega’s government has increased concentration of power after amending the Constitution and after some tampered-with elections held in the two autonomous regions of the Caribbean coast, thus consummating control of all the branches of government, including autonomous municipalities and regions. The constitutional amendments that enabled Ortega to be re-elected indefinitely eliminate articles that ensured the separation of powers. They give the President legislative power and, through amendments to the Military Code and the Police Law, enable him to control changes in command and retirements in the Army and Police, active military being able to take on civilian roles. The articles concerning freedom of the press and information were not amended. However, freedom of the press and information continue to be the same or worse. The secrecy of the Executive Branch continues to be absolute, no information or statement is offered to the few independent or semi-independent media, it being only the official media that receive news and statements from officials. Not even regarding a dengue epidemic did the Health Ministry offer information on prevention through non-official media. Increasingly radio and television media are controlled or acquired by the government or the Ortega Murillo family and the few that remain are neutralized or obstructed. Official advertising, which is confused with that of the Party and of praising the person of the President, is exclusive of the official media or the family. The Law on Access to Public Information passed in 2007 is not complied with, except by the Central Bank, the National Assembly and Enatrel (the entity administering electrical transmission lines). The investigator of this law, Guillermo Medrano, said that the Web sites of the state bodies, including mayors’ offices governed by the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front), “are full of political information and little institutional information,” they being used for political propaganda. The government besides the secrecy in order to prevent the flow of information uses police repression. In November last year a La Prensa reporting team was unlawfully detained for two hours by the National Police. The journalists were taking photos of a house confiscated for having an alleged link with the drug trade and which was being repaired with the intent that it be occupied by a person close to the government. During a November press conference the president of the Supreme Electoral Council on the elections in the Caribbean area the Council spokesman approached the place where the journalists’ tape recorders were and switched off that of Tatiana Silva, a La Prensa reporter. In an apparent act of reprisal the president of the Nicaragua Journalists Guild (CPN), Leonel Laguna, was dismissed by the Association of Nicaraguan Radio Broadcast Professionals (Apranic), owner of the official Radio La Primerísima, with which it has had a working relationship for the past 25 years. The cause of the firing was understood to be publication in La Prensa on January 16 of statements by Laguna in his role as president of the CPN, and not as a working member of that radio station. In that item, titled “Disdain of the CPN and Its Journalists” Laguna criticized the fact that the Ortega government had turned its back on that organization’s journalists, the majority of them militants of the governing party. The most obvious attitude of official secrecy was seen in the “disappearance” of President Ortega this year. For 10 days the government cancelled all his official activities, including the visit of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and an event commemorating the Indian uprising in which one of Ortega’s brothers died. At the end of the unusual absence Ortega appeared at the airport to welcome the new cardinal, Leopoldo Brenes Solórzano, whom he told, “Cardinal Brenes, you have made your first miracle, you have revived me,” referring to the rumors that he had died in Cuba.