On November 7, Nicaraguans will go to the poll in elections lacking democratic guarantees, without minimum conditions to promote healthy competition for power. In the absence of unexpected events, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo will perpetuate itself in control of the state apparatus, not just the presidency, because the other institutions resigned, a long time ago, to play the role assigned to each by design.
To achieve this, the dictatorship undertook the erosion of obstacles in its path, beginning with the most formidable: freedom of the press.
The most recent mockery against independent journalism was the opening of offices of the Ministry of Health at the headquarters of Confidencial and 100% Noticias online news, illegally confiscated in December 2018 by armed policemen, without legal proceedings.
The newsroom of ‘Confidencial’ is not within the four walls of a confiscated office, but in the commitment of journalistsCarlos F. Chamorro
The intervention of the two media – months after the protests that were repressed with bullets by the regime, its policemen and paramilitaries – was the culmination of a long process of harassment to which other journalistic companies were also subjected, such as the historic newspaper La Prensa, victim of a prolonged customs blockade to prevent him from importing paper.
Aníbal Toruño, director of Radio Darío, whose facilities in León were destroyed on April 20, 2018, has suffered three raids at his residence this year.
The attacks, threats, intimidation and surveillance of journalists force many to take the path of exile, several of them in Costa Rica, where they are welcomed with the traditional Costa Rican sympathy by the defenders of freedom. Some, who arrived in Costa Rica after the 2018 repression, returned to Nicaragua, at serious risk to their freedom and physical integrity.
Meanwhile, the regime advanced the project of endowing the repression of the independent press with a semblance of legality. Apart from the lack of procedural guarantees in the courts dominated by the Sandinistas, as was clear in the proceedings for libel and slander promoted by regime officials against journalists Kalúa Salazar, David Quintana and William Aragón, the dictatorship created new crimes.
The Gag Law, approved in October last year, imposes two to five years in prison for anyone who spreads false news capable of causing “fear, anxiety or alarm in the population”, damaging the honor, prestige and dignity of other people or endangering public order or “sovereign security.”
Even democratic countries with strong and independent judicial systems do not place the establishment of “the truth” in the hands of their judges to punish anyone who deviates from it so severely.
Ortega and his regime have in that faculty an ideal mechanism for the repression and imposition of his speech, to the exclusion of others, when it is convenient for them.
To complement the gag, the Sandinista parliamentarians also approved the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents. Any organization or person that receives external financing is obliged to register as such and is prohibited from expressing itself on the internal affairs of the country. As is evident, the law prevents the operation of organizations dedicated to the defense of human rights, often dependent on international cooperation.
The siege imposed by the Ortega/Murillo regime on public freedoms, particularly freedom of expression, confirms the intention of holding a farce in November.
That is all the more reason for the international community to pay special attention to the process and be ready to denounce and punish those who violate the popular will through repression and tricks.
This opinion article was originally published in La Nacion (Costa Rica). It has been translated and adapted by Today Nicaragua staff.