Freedom of Expression


185.     During the year 2002, the Office of the Special Rapporteur received information accounting for an improvement in the overall situation of freedom of expression in Nicaragua. Nevertheless, the Office presents below other information received during the year 2002. 


Aggression and threats


186.  In March 2002, Arnoldo Alemán, President of the National Assembly and former President of the Republic, insulted journalists Claudia Sirias, of Channel 2 television, and Vilma Areas, of Radio La Primerísima, during a press conference when they asked him about acts of corruption in which he was allegedly involved.[i]


187.  Also in March 2002, Mr. Alemán tried to prevent the media from covering the visit of Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, to the Plenary of the National Assembly.[ii]


188.  On March 12, 2002, Arnoldo Alemán presented a police complaint against Octavio Sacasa, the owner of Channel 2.  Mr. Alemán claimed he had received death threats from Mr. Sacasa, although there was apparently no evidence of this.  Mr. Alemán has frequently tried to intimidate the press through verbal aggression and other means.[iii]


189.  The Office of the Special Rapporteur has received information regarding an alleged campaign by the hierarchy of the Catholic church to discredit media that have reported on the presumed participation of some priests in acts of corruption committed by the previous government.  In this context, journalist Marianela Flores Vergara, a correspondent with El Nuevo Diario and Telediario 10, was physically attacked by Bishop Bosco César María Vivas Róbelo while she was trying to interview him.[iv]


190.  On July 18, 2002, Luis Felipe Palacios, of the newspaper La Prensa, was summoned and interrogated by the police after he published an article that implicated a high official of the army in acts of corruption.  He was asked to reveal his sources.  The Chief of Police, Edwin Cordero, justified the summons and interrogation saying that the police can act without a judicial order in cases of narcotrafficking.  Manuel Esquivel, a cameraman from La Prensa, was accompanying Mr. Palacios and took pictures during the interrogation.  Police threatened to detain Mr. Esquivel for taking pictures without permission and forced him to expose the roll of film he was using.[v] 


191.  On October 22, 2002, Tirso Moreno stormed into the offices of the daily La Prensa, fired two pistols, and threatened to kill several editors.  Mr. Moreno is a former member of the now defunct counter-revolutionary Resistencia Nicaragüense (Contras), that fought against the Sandinistas in the 1980s.  No one was injured in the incident and after a few hours, Moreno gave himself up to police.  This incident took place within the context of intimidation of the press by other former Contras and supporters of former President Arnoldo Alemán's.  Mr. Alemán, members of his family, and former members of his cabinet are facing accusations of crimes corruption that were exposed by the media.[vi]


Indirect restrictions


192.  In June 2002, a group of about one hundred journalists protested outside of the Presidential Palace to demand that the government of Enrique Bolaños address the problem of the distribution of official publicity.  According to the information received, the government heavily favors the television and print media with the widest audiences when allocating official publicity funds.  This is particularly detrimental to small radio stations, some of which have had to shut down for financial reasons.[vii]


[i] Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) in a letter dated July 26, 2002; PFC, October 25, 2002.

[ii] Id., July 26, 2002.

[iii] Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), March 18, 2002; and Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) in a letter dated July 26, 2002.

[iv] Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) in a letter dated July 26, 2002; PFC, October 25, 2002.

[v] Reporteros Sin Fronteras (RSF), July 23, 2002; PFC, October 25, 2002 and Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) in a letter dated July 26, 2002.

[vi]Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), October 29, 2002.

[vii]Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) in a letter dated July 26, 2002.