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Democrat and Republican Senators advocated last Tuesday for the safety of journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians in Nicaragua, who live under the harassment of the tyranny presided by Sandinista Daniel Ortega.
In a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Kevin Sullivan, the senators urged him to use “all diplomatic tools to guarantee the safety of journalists, civil society and political opponents” in the Central American country.
In the letter, signed by Robert Menéndez, Ted Cruz, Benjamin Cardin, Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Marco Rubio, Tim Kaine, Bill Cassidy, Christopher Murphy and John Cornyn, they expressed their concern “about harassment” by the Nicaraguan Executive of opposition, civil society and independent media in Nicaragua.
“Respect for fundamental freedoms is essential to the preservation of a vibrant democracy, and the exercise of freedom of expression requires that opposition members, activists and journalists be allowed to operate in a safe environment,” they claimed.
Censorship and restrictions
In particular, the senators expressed concern that, prior to the November 2021 elections, Nicaraguan legislators had begun to tighten “press censorship and to further restrict the activities of civil society and human rights groups.”
They specifically referred to the laws on foreign agents, and the special law on cyber-crimes, recently proposed and approved by the deputies of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
According to the senators, the law on foreign agents obliges civil society, NGOs, and citizens who receive funds from abroad to register as “foreign agents” and prohibits them from participating in domestic political activities.
Meanwhile, the special law on cyber-crimes, which will become law on December 30th, would allow the Ortega government to prosecute people accused of disseminating “false and/or distorted information” at its discretion.
“These efforts by the Ortega government represent a clear attempt to repress political opponents and restrict citizen mobilization,” they stated.
The senators declared themselves “alarmed by these efforts to provide a legal justification for harassing and criminalizing any entity that criticizes the Ortega government,” and noted that at least 113 political opponents remain in prison “while arbitrary detentions and kidnappings continue”.
“We are deeply concerned that the recently enacted legislation, built to silence dissent, will lead to increased arrests and persecution of political opponents,” they warned.
In the letter, they called the enactment of these laws “deeply worrying” in a context where “the harassment of independent media in Nicaragua has increased dramatically in recent years.”
“Since April 2018, Nicaraguans have witnessed arbitrary arrests of journalists and censorship of media outlets such as 100% Noticias and Nicavisión Canal 12, while Ortega’s allies maintain control over most of the national media,” they said.
In the document, they stressed that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are an integral part of the preservation of democracy, and therefore called on Ortega to “respect democratic ideals and the fundamental human rights of all Nicaraguans”.
Since April 2018, Nicaragua has been experiencing a socio-political crisis that has left at least 328 dead, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), although local bodies have raised the figure to 684.