The journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro arrived on the morning of this Monday, December 14, to the writing of Confidential, in Managua, to claim for the police occupation of the building ordered two years ago by the Government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. He was accompanied by his wife, Desireé Elizondo, the veteran human rights defender Vilma Núñez, and a group of reporters who came to show solidarity and provide coverage. The act of protest lasted less than 15 minutes: almost immediately, it was blown up by a deployment of riot police who pushed and expelled Chamorro from the facade of the small building, in which many of the best chapters of investigative journalism have been written In Nicaragua. The site is today deteriorated by the confiscation.
It is not the first time that the police have attacked Chamorro and his team. It all started in December 2018, a year of massive protests and the consequent human rights violations committed in Nicaragua by police and paramilitaries. After the murder of more than 325 people, according to human rights organizations, and the installation of a de facto police state, the repressive menu of the Sandinista regime included direct attacks on independent journalism.
Confidential, the media led by Chamorro, was at the forefront of the government’s repressive agenda. It was the first newsroom confiscated due to its journalistic work. During 2018, Chamorro’s voice on his television program This week (also censored) was the most watched and heard on open television in Nicaragua. While writing Confidential managed to test for the first time the extrajudicial executions committed by police and paramilitaries during the social unrest. The media also documented the responsibility of the Sandinista Executive in the massacre denounced by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) through interviews and reports, including the publication of a series of emails from Vice President Rosario Murillo with the order “Let’s go with everything”.
At midnight on December 13, 2018, a contingent of special police troops forcibly entered the newsroom of Confidential. They looted and destroyed everything they found ahead. 24 hours later, they returned to confiscate the building indefinitely. Chamorro went to the police headquarters to complain with his journalistic team, but the response he found was blows and shoves.
“They are not going to confiscate journalism”
Chamorro, along with a good part of his team, had to go into exile for almost a year in Costa Rica, where he managed to cope with his work without shutting up, despite the difficulties. The journalist made the decision to return from exile in November 2019, assuming the risk that in Nicaragua there are no guarantees for press freedom. The riot police were ready to prove it every time this journalist demanded the return of his writing.
“It does not matter that the police state is exhibited by brute force, because they will not confiscate ideas, they will never confiscate journalism,” Chamorro shouted at the riot police who were pushing him on December 14. “They are not going to prevent the free press from continuing to report and continue portraying you before Nicaraguans and the world, because you are the executors of illegal orders,” added the journalist, son of the former director of The Press Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, assassinated by the Somoza dictatorship in 1978.
The director of Confidencial has always insisted that the confiscation of its writing has no legal basis. “In these two years of persecution, we have exhausted all legal remedies before the Public Ministry to investigate the robbery perpetrated by the Police, and before the Supreme Court of Justice to order the suspension of this occupation, without obtaining any response”, assures Chamorro. “The Supreme Court of Justice admitted three Amparo Appeals, on behalf of the companies Invermedia-Confidencial, Promedia-Esta Semana, and Cabal, but since the beginning of 2019 they are awaiting a ruling in the Constitutional Chamber, and the Court has already violated their own terms of law to deliver justice.
Police and political persecution
The case of Carlos Fernando Chamorro and his media (which, in the face of television censorship, is broadcast on social networks) illustrates the harassment and attacks experienced by independent journalism in Nicaragua. It is not only about confiscation of newsrooms such as that of Confidential and the channel 100% News, but also from a wave of libel and slander trials against reporters and 344 attacks against journalists – almost one a day – so far in 2020, especially perpetrated by policemen, according to the observatory of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
The climax of this persecution of the independent press is the recent approval of the Cybercrime law. The Lhey gag, as it is known, imposes fines or jail terms of up to eight years against journalists that the regime considers to publish “false news.” Who will determine that a report is “false news” is the Sandinista government itself.
“Despite the physical occupation of our newsroom, they never silenced us, nor will they be able to prevent with the new Gag Law that we continue to monitor power, investigate and denounce corruption, ”wrote Chamorro in a editorial this December 13. “More than a year ago we returned from exile to continue telling the story that began to be written in April 2018: the departure from power of a bloody dictatorship by peaceful political means. A story of pain and hope, whose main protagonist are the self-convened citizens, the new Blue and White political majority, who today continue to resist under siege, in jail, or in exile. And here we are, doing journalism to regain freedom step by step, in this national crusade for truth, democracy and social justice, so that ‘Nicaragua becomes a Republic again,’ wrote the journalist, upholding the slogan coined by his father .
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.