Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and PEN International call on the Nicaraguan Congress to reject a bill providing for the registration of press correspondents as “foreign agents”, and denounce an increasingly complex working climate for the independent press in the country.
The bill known as the “Foreign Agents Regulation Law”, intended to “prevent crimes against the security of the State” caused a real outcry within Nicaraguan civil society and the international community. The text, which forces any entity or person receiving funding from abroad to register with the Ministry of the Interior as a ” foreign agent “, and which will apply in particular to journalists working for foreign media, must still be examined by parliament, where President Ortega’s political formation, the Frente Sandinista, has a large majority.
“RSF strongly denounces an aberrant and unconstitutional bill intended to censor and further intimidate the independent media in the country,” said the director of the Latin America office for RSF, Emmanuel Colombié. Congress must reject this liberticidal bill which will allow Daniel Ortega’s government to have a new tool of repression to silence the critical voices of his administration.
“The trials, persecutions and attacks against journalists and media critical of the Nicaraguan government are proof that the authorities in this country are acting systematically to limit the right to freedom of expression, denounces Jennifer Clement, president. by PEN International. Respect for rights must be a priority for the State. We call on the government of Nicaragua to stop the criminalization of independent voices, and ask Congress to reject this bill which aims to control and restrict the work of the media, journalists and civil society organizations ”
The text tabled in parliament on September 22 by the deputies of ‘Frente Sandinista’, the party of President Daniel Ortega, plans to establish “a legal framework for natural or legal persons dependent on interests and funding from the foreigner and who engage in interference in the internal affairs of the country ”. Any organization or person registered with the Interior Ministry as a “foreign agent” will be subject to close surveillance, restrictions on their civic and political rights, and may face the seizure of all their property.
NGOs, press correspondents, representatives of news agencies but also Nicaraguan media journalists receiving financial support from outside the country are part of this list of foreign agents. Consulting, public relations, advertising agencies, employees of information services and political consultants with links to foreign governments, companies and foundations included in this list of the ministry should also “refrain from intervening in domestic affairs or matters ”, under pain of legal sanctions, and will also be subject to close surveillance.
This liberticidal bill worsens an already very degraded climate for the press. As the country sinks into the political crisis, attacks against the independent press have increased since April 2018: intimidation, threats, seizures of equipment, searches without a warrant, organized shortage of paper , arbitrary arrests have become the daily media. Regularly victims of harassment campaigns and even death threats, Nicaraguan journalists are more and more likely to go into exile .
Several independent media are particularly in the crosshairs of power. The offices of the media Confidencial , 100% Noticias Niú and Esta Semana have been blocked and surrounded by the police since December 2018. On September 11, 2020, the Nicaraguan justice announced the seizure of all the property of the independent television channel Nicavision Canal 12, one of the last independent channels still in operation in the country, particularly critical of the government, as well as the freezing of all assets and the group’s bank account. The judge’s decision followed the decision of the General Tax Directorate to impose a fine of USD 607,000 onNicavisión Canal 12 for tax declarations allegedly irregular between 2011 and 2013. The Canal 10 channel is also in the crosshairs of the General Directorate of Taxes.
Legal proceedings against journalists have also increased in recent months. On September 23, journalist Kalua Salazar , director of La Costeñisima radio station, was found guilty of slander and defamation for exposing acts of corruption in the municipality of El Rama . In August 2020, journalists David Quintana , from Boletin Ecologico , William Aragón and Elsa Espinoza , from the coalition of independent journalists PCIN (Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua), were also targeted by these abusive legal proceedings related to their work as information.
Nicaragua occupies the 117th position out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2020 established by RSF.
Copyright ©2016, Reporters Without Borders. Used with the permission of Reporters Without Borders(RSF), CS 90247 75083 Paris Cedex 02 https://rsf.org
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