Freedom of Expression

Press release R31/23

On Journalists' Day in Nicaragua, the Office of the Special Rapporteur sends a message of solidarity, support and commitment to the work of the Nicaraguan press

March 1, 2023

Washington D.C. - On the day of the Nicaraguan journalist, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reaffirms its commitment to the full guarantee of the right to freedom of expression in Nicaragua and reiterates its call to the State to immediately cease the actions of threats, harassment and judicial persecution against journalists and communicators.

Since the beginning of the social, political, and human rights crisis in Nicaragua in April 2018, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has documented a gradual increase in repressive actions against the independent press in Nicaragua, particularly against those who report on matters of public and political interest. In this framework, in 2022, SRFOE received information about an increase in police operations in residences of journalists and media facilities, raids, confiscation of media, seizure of work equipment, displacement and forced exile of journalists. Likewise, the information reported indicates that some media outlets have cut back their coverage of political issues due to government threats to close them down. The complaints received by this Office show that the actions of the State seek to silence the press and control any discourse that questions or contradicts the official voices, undermining the basic guarantees for the exercise of fundamental freedoms.

In this context, the Rapporteur’s Office also learned of the release from prison of at least 7 journalists and media executives, among more than 200 other persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons in Nicaragua, on February 9, 2023. As recently indicated by the IACHR, during the early hours of that day, 222 political prisoners were released from prison and deported to the United States of America on the same day in compliance with a ruling by Criminal Chamber One of the Court of Appeals of Managua, which ordered the immediate deportation of these individuals.

Additionally, on February 15, the Court of Appeals of Managua communicated the judicial resolution by which 94 persons identified as political opponents were deprived of their nationality, their political rights and all their properties, who were described as "fugitives from justice" and "traitors to the homeland". As far as this Office was able to learn, among this group of people there are at least 13 journalists and communicators.

For the SRFOE, these measures, together with others on which the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur’s Office have previously pronounced, contribute to consolidate a generalized atmosphere of self-censorship and zones of media silence in Nicaragua, where there is little or no independent news coverage. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has emphasized that the use of State mechanisms to regulate aspects directly or indirectly related to freedom of expression, "with the aim of intimidating dissidents and thus inhibiting their critical manifestations" is a form of indirect censorship and is prohibited by inter-American human rights standards. In this regard, the Rapporteur’s Office recalls that "when the law is used for the purpose of eliminating or appeasing criticism or dissent, what exists is persecution and not a legitimate attempt to strengthen the rule of law". These measures are also incompatible with the principles of pluralism and tolerance, typical of democratic societies.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur’s Office has received information on the persistent challenges to the sustainability of independent journalism, both inside and outside Nicaragua. In this regard, there are economic difficulties, but also related to the lack of sources to report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua.

In view of the above information, the Rapporteur’s Office reiterates its call to the State of Nicaragua to cease all repressive actions against journalists and communicators who exercise their right to freedom of expression. Likewise, they call on the international community to continue supporting and protecting the work of the Nicaraguan press, and to deploy its efforts to strengthen Nicaraguan journalism. Finally, the SRFOE expresses its solidarity with the journalists who have been arbitrarily stripped of their nationality; at the same time, it emphasizes its commitment to continue monitoring the situation of freedom of expression and press freedom in Nicaragua, and to promote the reestablishment of guarantees for its full exercise.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.