IAPA concern over the potential closure of Canal 12 in Nicaragua

Other bills seek to cripple democracy and human rights
Miami (October 2, 2020).- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern over the decision of the Sandinista-oriented judge, Silvia Chica Larios, which forces Channel 12 to pay off a debt of United States six hundred thousand dollars in a period of 10 days, which could surely lead to the definitive closure of another independent media outlet in Nicaragua.

On September 11, the tax collection office (DGI, Dirección General de Ingresos in Spanish) ordered the seizure of the assets of Channel 12 - four properties – and of its owner, arguing that the television station owed 21 million cordobas (about US $ 608,000) in Income Taxes between 2011 and 2012. The original claim was for US$ 262,000, although an Administrative Court had lowered the tax debt to US$ 24,000. Eight years later, the DGI appealed the case before the Constitutional Court to annul the ruling resulting in the debt increasingly considerably with the application of fines and interest.

The president of the IAPA, Christopher Barnes, regretted that "the government of Daniel Ortega continues actions which threaten the few democratic spaces that still survive in the country." Barnes, director of The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, Kingston, Jamaica, reiterated that "it appears that the authoritarianism of the Executive Branch has hijacked the other powers of the State with the aim of ending due process and the rule of law. We hope that intergovernmental organizations and the international community can come to the rescue of freedom of the press and expression, essential tools to sustain the little that remains of democracy in the country."

Also in Nicaragua, the president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, made reference to the international complaints rejecting a bill on "Regulation of Foreign Agents" that was presented to the National Assembly on September 22. This law would require every person and entity to register as a "foreign agent" and to declare any donation received from abroad in the past. "It is a law with a name that seeks to close off international funding to human rights organizations and independent media that are operating thanks to donations that allow their recipients to denounce and monitor authoritarian measures which are contrary to international principles and democracy," said Rock, director of the La Silla Rota portal, Mexico City.

The IAPA authorities also drew attention to another bill that will affect freedom of the press and expression as it is decidedly against the media and citizen conversation through social media. Sandinista legislators presented the draft "Special Cybercrime Law" with which the government could punish with jail time, ranging from two and four years, "those who, using information and communication technology, publish or disseminate false and / or misrepresented information that causes alarm, fear or anxiety in the population, or a group or sector....."

"Nicaragua is one of the least democratic countries in the Americas and this judicial decision and these controversial bills only confirm this unfortunate reality," concluded Barnes and Rock.

IAPA is a non-profit entity 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 the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.