IAPA issues alert on government harassment against freedom of expression in Nicaragua

Calls on the government of President Daniel Ortega to end the persecution of critical voices

Miami (June 3, 2021). The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) urged President Daniel Ortega to "end the harassment and cornering of critical voices" following a new escalation of state violence against independent journalists and against Cristiana Chamorro, former executive director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH) and pre-candidate for the presidential elections in Nicaragua.

Jorge Canahuati, president of the IAPA, and Carlos Jornet, president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, announced that the institution is in a state of alert due to "government violence and the absence of due judicial process, as mechanisms of repression of the regime continue eroding democracy, reducing freedom of expression and silencing the media and independent voices. The process against Chamorro is clearly a way of restricting political freedom and free expression in the wake of the upcoming November elections."

Anti-riot police broke into Chamorro's residence yesterday after a judge ordered her arrest and preventive detention. She is being accused by the Prosecutor's Office "for crimes of abusive management and ideological falsehood, related to the laundering of money, property and assets" while heading the Foundation, according to the local media and press reports. Chamorro was placed under house arrest. Her brother, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro confirmed her arrest on Twitter. On May 20, police also raided his recording studio that broadcasts the television news shows "Esta Semana" and "Esta Noche" as well as the newsroom of the digital site "Confidencial".

Earlier this week police arrested the financial agent Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes, the accountant of FVBCH, both remain incommunicado. The Prosecutor's Office also requested that journalist María Lilly Delgado and two other former employees of the foundation have their migration status suspended. So far, more than 20 journalists have been summoned and interviewed by the Public Ministry investigating Chamorro.

"The lack of judicial independence in Nicaragua allows the government to maintain a high level of persecution against Chamorro and independent journalists," said Canahuati, from Grupo Opsa, from Honduras, and Jornet, from the newspaper La Voz del Interior, from Argentina. "There are no guarantees or due process in the country, so we fear that we have not yet seen the worst of this regime."

The FVBCH suspended its operations in February after refusing to continue operating under the control of the Foreign Agents Regulation law, which requires non-profit organizations to register as a "foreign agent" in order to continue to receive funds from abroad.

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