16 October 2014
The climate of press freedom continues to be strained by government action throughout the presidency of Daniel Ortega. The government does not respect the Law on Access to Public Information and is not keeping updated the Web sites of government bodies which rather are full of partisan political propaganda. President Ortega in his seven and a half years in government has not held one single press conference. On special occasions he gives very lengthy speeches, ordering radio and television hookups, with even international subscription cable channels remaining off the air. This year, during the United Nations Human Rights Universal Periodic Review the government was given five recommendations for respecting freedom of expression, including the right to peaceful protest and abstaining from actions designed to intimidate or suppress, decriminalize defamation, establish an institutional structure that guarantees access to public information, promote plurality of news media, and investigate and punish attacks on journalists. The government representation accepted two recommendations, saying that in the country there exists unrestricted freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. “Partner” Rosario, as the president’s wife is called, Rosario Murillo, coordinator of the Communication and Citizenry Council, is the only person authorized to give information in the government. She does so with a daily report that is transmitted by all the official media and is heard over public loudspeakers in marketplaces. That way she carries out a policy designed by herself to not produce “contaminated” information, according to a document that was leaked and which set out the communication lines in the Ortega administration. The only way to obtain public information is to listen every noon to the long monologues of the “Partner,” filled with figures of the achievements of each ministry. No official may give information, only deliver it to official media. The few officials who dared to offer information to independent media were dismissed from their posts. Government bodies prevent journalists from covering governmental events and they are not allowed to enter press conferences. The lack of equality in the distribution of official advertising, almost nil for independent media, has caused many small media outlets to disappear, especially on-air papers. Regarding ownership of media, the government’s policy was to acquire or neutralize them, both in the capital and in the provinces, especially radio and television stations that reach the popular classes. A draft bill for a new Police Law includes an article in which it is prohibited for any natural or legal person to investigate, leaving this activity only for the police. The bill remains under debate after there was strong criticism of its unconstitutionality in violating every person’s right to inform and be informed.