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The Escalating Attack On Press Freedoms In Nicaragua

Jan 12, 2019
Originally published on January 13, 2019 9:30 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

News organizations in Nicaragua who have questioned the rule of President Daniel Ortega have been under continued attack this past year. Journalists have been detained. Many offices have been ransacked, equipment confiscated. The Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed deep concern over deteriorating press freedom there. Just last month, Nicaraguan police raided the offices of two news outlets in Managua, including Confidencial. Carlos Chamorro is the editor, and he joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

CARLOS CHAMORRO: Thanks to you.

SIMON: Mr. Chamorro, what happened when you were raided?

CHAMORRO: Well, police came at night. Nobody from our newsroom was working there. But they basically used force to take over the building. And they stay there from midnight until 3:30 in the morning. We came to the office early morning. And we saw that they had robbed everything. I'm talking about computer, television, production equipment but also personnel documentation, accounting books. So we accuse from the very first day President Ortega for organizing this assault. So at this moment, our newsroom is still occupied by armed police.

SIMON: But I gather you're continuing to put out content on your website, right? Can you tell us how?

CHAMORRO: Well, I cannot tell you any detail about how are we working. We are working in a decentralized way, remote coordination. We have made a priority the personal security of our team. We don't want to go to prison like our colleagues Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda. But we're working. We're reporting. We're editing. We're putting our website on the air. It's very, very difficult to work under these conditions of persecution. But we have the commitment to do it until the last moment in which we're able to do it.

SIMON: Tell us what you know, please, about the reporters who are in prison.

CHAMORRO: There are two colleagues detained in prison and in isolation. Nobody has seen them except from one official picture that was taken to Miguel Mora in the moment in - he was taken to trial. They are being accused of fabricated crimes, like conspiracy, hate incitation or terrorism, with absolutely no proof. They did nothing else than doing journalism - reporting, criticizing the government, exercising our freedom of expression, constitutional rights. But Ortega's dictatorship - it's making to be a journalist - it's making it a criminal act.

SIMON: Mr. Chamorro, doesn't the Ortega family own, I guess it's - what? - Channel 4, 8, 9, 13, Radio Sandino, Radio Nicaragua - so many media outlets there in Nicaragua?

CHAMORRO: Yes. Ortega has all these media outlets that you have mentioned. They have probably very little credibility and not a large audience, although they have a lot of equipment and money. But the audience is deciding to follow the independent press. Ortega is only producing propaganda.

SIMON: You must worry about being detained, thrown into prison yourself.

CHAMORRO: Yes. We are under threat. I don't have any kind of protection. In the past, when I was under threat, I used to go to the National Commission of Human Rights, an NGO run by Dr. Vilma Nunez. And now Vilma Nunez's NGO has been - also is under persecution. I used to go to the church. Now the church is under persecution. And the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the U.N. and the international group of experts on human rights have - they have all been expelled from the country. There is no rule of the law. The only protection that we have is how we can measure (ph) our fear - how we can measure the risk that we are taking in order to do our job.

SIMON: Do you ever think of trying to do your job outside of Nicaragua?

CHAMORRO: Well, yes. There are more than 50 Nicaraguan journalists abroad working from different places. And this is obviously one of the possibilities that we are contemplating. We definitely are much more useful for the Nicaraguan society free than in prison. And we are trying to continue reporting and doing our job as journalist.

SIMON: Carlos Chamorro, who's editor of Confidencial, thank you so much for being with us. Good luck, sir.

CHAMORRO: Thanks to you.

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