The office where the newspaper El Confidencial, which opposes Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship in Nicaragua, was surrounded and overrun by police Thursday afternoon (20) in the capital, Managua. There are reports of jailed journalists – photographer and cameraman Lionel Gutiérrez, from the newspaper itself, and officials from AFP and EFE agencies covering the building’s headquarters.
The information was first posted on Twitter by the director of the vehicle, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the leading Nicaraguan journalist and the most important voice against the dictatorship in the country.
Since the April 2018 protests, Confidencial and other opposition media have been subject to government harassment and threats of arrest.
The local press is also reporting pressure not to publish reports indicating the number of people infected and killed by the coronavirus. According to epidemiologists, the pandemic has affected more people than the government has officially released.
The old confidential press room had already been confiscated in 2018, and Chamorro fled to Costa Rica for several months.
Some of the journalists who remained in the country were arrested, such as Miguel Mora, director of 100% Notícias, who was detained for over a year for “promoting and inciting hatred and violence”.
To the police, who entered the building after keeping it surrounded for some time, Chamorro asked them to preserve the equipment and integrity of the journalists. According to the information available, he is not in the building at the moment.
Teams of journalists outside the building were chased by police and at least two professionals were taken into police custody.
The new advances against the press come six months before the presidential election, scheduled for November, which would decide on a successor to Ortega. Opposition parties do not have the right to participate in the election. If Ortega himself is not a candidate – indefinite re-election is approved in his term – his wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo, must run.
Other means of communication that have been attacked by the regime are Channel 12, which has been expropriated, Nuevo Diario, which has been closed, and the facilities where 100% Notícias and Confidencial previously operated. In addition, there was the murder of journalist Ángel Gahona.
In recent interviews, Chamorro had drawn attention to the need for the international press to observe the Nicaraguan electoral process. “Otherwise, the only independent observation of these elections will be by the press, if they let us act until then.”
The president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Antonia Urrejola, declared that the attacks on journalists “are intensifying, causing concern about the electoral process the country is going through.”
The escalation of the authoritarianism of the Ortega regime began in April 2018, after the enactment of a series of pension cuts.
Demonstrations to the contrary were violently repressed. According to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, it is estimated that more than 300 dead and 500 people remain in prison.
Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro is an important public figure in this Central American country because of his family history and his political and journalistic trajectories.
His father, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (1924-1978), was editor-in-chief of La Prensa, the only opposition newspaper during the Somoza dictatorship. He ended up being murdered.
Her mother, Violeta Chamorro, participated in the movement to defeat the last of the Somoza and was president between 1990 and 1997.
During his mother’s reign, Chamorro headed the Barricade, the support body for the official Sandinista party, which had taken the reins of the Sandinista revolution (1979). At that time, he was close to Ortega, one of the leaders of the revolution.
“Sandinism was defensible, but it has betrayed all its flags. It has made alliances with the right, has moved in the anti-democratic sense of wanting to be a one-party country, is not making progress in terms of civil rights, and is cracking down on opponents. It has become a dictatorship, ”he said in an interview with Folha in 2019.
The Nicaraguan government is investigating Cristiana Chamorro, the journalist’s sister, for alleged money laundering, through the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
Cristiana, who is also a journalist, had offered to run in the November election, although the regime is seeking to inhibit her candidacy. For Carlos Dada, journalist for the newspaper El Faro, considered the main media in Central America, “the action of this farm is clearly a direct action to reach the Chamorro family”.