Press freedom in Nicaragua has died at the hands of Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista regime. Persecution against dissidents, including journalists, is on the rise and seems to have no limits. The most recent case involves the international press, specifically Anatoly Kurmanaev, longtime New York Times reporter who was denied access to the country by the Nicaraguan dictatorship last June 17.
“I’ve reported in Venezuela, Cuba & Russia, among other places. Never been denied entry to do my job before,” wrote Anatoly Kurmanaev on his Twitter account, after the Times published the story of his case and his disqualification to enter Nicaragua.
“The denial of Mr. Kurmanaev’s entry to Nicaragua appears to be an escalation of government attacks on independent media amid a crackdown by President Daniel Ortega,” the New York Times expressed.
According to the New York newspaper, the airline where Kurmanaev traveled “had his ticket to Managua canceled by the airline he was traveling on hours before the flight was set to take off, after Nicaraguan authorities refused to grant him entry. Mr. Kurmanaev had met all of Nicaragua’s legal and health requirements for entry.”
The Ortega regime has intensified its persecution against the national press, a war against freedom of expression and the free exercise of journalism which has been going on for a long time but which is intensifying as the presidential elections of next November 7 draw nearer.
The attack on the international press in Nicaragua reflects the local climate
Denying access to the international press in a country is a reflection of a hostile local climate. In Nicaragua the reality is tragic, in addition to an economic crisis that has been dragging on since before the pandemic, the constant loss of freedoms is another situation to which Nicaraguan citizens are subjected on a daily basis.
The press is no stranger to this. The Sandinista regime has been systematically persecuting journalists not aligned with the ruling party under the excuse of combating “money laundering”, an example of this is the case brought by the Nicaraguan prosecutor’s office against presidential pre-candidate Cristiana Chamorro, who is a journalist as well as a politician.
In fact, last Monday, May 24, the prosecutor’s office, which is sympathetic to the Ortega regime, issued subpoenas against journalists and media directors.
According to the Spanish newspaper El País, “the journalists summoned by the Prosecutor’s Office are Fabio Gadea Mantilla, director of Radio Corporación, one of the radio stations with the largest audience, especially in the rural areas of Nicaragua. María Lilly Delgado, correspondent for the Univisión network. Verónica Chávez, former executive director of the confiscated channel 100 % Noticias. And finally, Lourdes Arróliga, former employee of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.”
In addition to the subpoenas, on May 20, the offices of Confidencial magazine were raided for the second time in three years. Likewise, Leonel Gutiérrez, cameraman of the magazine, was kidnapped by the Nicaraguan police for about 7 hours “without any legal justification”, as denounced on Twitter by Carlos Chamorro, founder of Confidencial.
Dánae Vílchez, Nicaraguan journalist, denounced in an opinion column in The Washington Post that Ortega’s actions are a way of imposing fear among the citizens, and that his purpose is none other than to take the November elections by disqualifying the largest number of pre-candidates and silencing the press.
El American spoke with Judith Flores, exiled Nicaraguan journalist who writes for El Diario Las Américas and Gaceta Iberosfera, she denounced that the actions of the Ortega regime against the press is not something new and that they are part of his dictatorial manual.
“One of the first tasks of Daniel Ortega when he came to power was the economic suffocation of the media, many disappeared, and the repression has been escalating over time, the regime is responsible for the death of Angel Gahona, killed by a gunshot to the head while he was doing a journalistic coverage”, said Flores.
“He has imprisoned journalists, and today he’s investigating a group of communicators for having received support from the Violeta Barrios Foundation, whose former president, Cristiana Chamorro, is accused of money laundering and remains under house arrest. A case that has no legal basis because the source of the money is legal.”
Likewise, Flores asserted that local journalism is constantly “under threat of investigation by the regime” and that “Ortega has under his control most of the media he acquired through Venezuelan aid and public funds”, so that press independence is also a severe problem in the Central American country.
In short, the Ortega regime’s siege against the international and local press is a reflection of the current political situation and the individual freedoms of Nicaraguan society. A reality where persecution and repression are increasing as November approaches.