'De facto' censorship in Nicaragua denounced by IAPA in Washington

'Freedom of Expression and Democracy in Nicaragua' forum held by IAPA and Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, DC (March 6, 2019)—A "de facto censorship" against press freedom is what his country is undergoing, declared Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro during a roundtable on freedom of expression and democracy in the Central American country that was held here today.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the organization Inter-American Dialogue (IAD) organized the activity to denounce the serious violations of press freedom and civil rights in Nicaragua. In the open discussions there participated representatives of social and civil organizations, of the State Department and of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and ambassadors, among others.

IAD President Michael Shifter moderated the dialogue in which there spoke Chamorro, editor of Confidencial and Esta Semana of Nicaragua; Edison Lanza, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, and IAPA President María Elvira Domínguez, who heads an international delegation of the organization that is visiting Washington, DC, March 6-8.

Chamorro, in exile with his family in Costa Rica since January, spoke of the "de facto censorship" against press freedom in Nicaragua. Specifically, he referred to the murder on April 21, 2018 of journalist Ángel Gahona, repression of members of the press, the confiscation and shutdown of 100% Noticias television channel, Radio Darío and Confidencial, as well as the economic asphyxia of newspapers La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

The journalist described his exile as "painful" but "necessary to be able to continue reporting." He disclosed that half of the newsroom team of Confidencial remains in Nicaragua, "reporting from a clandestine site." He said that at least some 50 journalists have left the country, although he clarified that there are many more independent journalists that are continuing to report from within the country.

For his part, Lanza compared the repression and criminalization of freedom of the press and of expression in Nicaragua with the actions of military dictatorships of past decades in South America. He also spoke of the very high percentage of impunity due to a Judicial Branch kidnapped by the Political Branch.

During her speech Domínguez, editor of the Cali, Colombia, newspaper El País, said that the IAPA is in Washington because "the case of Nicaragua is of extreme seriousness" and that "we have the timely objective of continuing to create awareness of the atrocities that are committed daily by the Daniel Ortega regime against freedom of the press and of expression and against other civil and political rights."

The IAPA president stressed that "since the first day of the Ortega government in 2007 we have been unceasingly denouncing the serious lack of press freedom." She criticized the fact that "despite the denunciations we have always been surprised, even now, that the regime has gone under the radar of the international community and that it enjoys its indifference."

She regretted that there has been no reaction from the international community "in the face of the first violations of a country's press freedom, because these are those that begin to create alarm and set the pattern for a regime to then continue pushing around all the other freedoms."

The Chilean ambassador to the Organization of American States, Hernán Salinas Burgos, declared that if the current process of dialogue in Nicaragua does not give results there should be put underway the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

For her part, the Argentine ambassador to the OAS, Paula María Bertol, one of the most expressive diplomats on the subject of Nicaragua since the April 2018 crisis, said that the matter is not forgotten, that work is continuing and she came out in favor of the dialogue. She issued a public call to the media and journalists that they identify "with first and last names" the judges who are interacting with those in power and sentence journalists, as a manner of creating pressure in the face of a politicized judicial branch.

Desiree Elizondo, Carlos Fernando Chamorro's wife, said that in representation of 130 families of the victims there was since April 2018 a new body that gathers the testimonies of those involved. She added that the expulsion and departure of the international rights bodies "was a hard blow" and that due to the persecution many family members of the victims went into exile. "The impunity is total" in Nicaragua, she declared.

The IAPA international delegation will remain in Washington, DC, for three days (March 6-8). In addition to the roundtable on Nicaragua the IAPA will be meeting with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, IACHR Assistant Secretary Marisol Blanchard, the director of the Human Rights Watch Americas Division José Miguel Vivanco, representatives of Congress, and officials of the State Department and of other government bodies, with the objective of keeping on the international public agenda the serious situation being undergone by freedom of expression and of the press in Nicaragua.

Domínguez is accompanied in the U.S. capital by former IAPA president Edward Seaton, The Manhattan Mercury, Kansas; Roberto Rock, chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, La Silla Rota, Mexico City, Mexico; José Roberto Dutriz, Executive Committee chairman, La Prensa Gráfica, San Salvador, El Salvador; Gabriela Vivanco, Membership Committee chair, La Hora, Quito, Ecuador; Ernesto Kraiselburd Press Institute president, El Día, La Plata, Argentina, and Executive Director Ricardo Trotti.

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.