The owner and director of Nicaragua’s leading independent cable news channel 100% Noticias has been formally charged with inciting hatred with messages and “fake news” and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism.
Miguel Mora was detained on Friday in a raid of the news channel, the charges stemming from 100% Noticia’s coverage of protests against Daniel Ortega.
Mora’s wife, Veronica Chavez, also a journalist, accused police at a news conference of “kidnapping” her husband “on orders of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and (first lady and Vice President) Rosario Murillo.”
Chavez was released on Friday night. She said that when her husband was taken by police he told her: “We’ll get out of this. Let’s trust in God.”
Mora appeared in court Saturday morning in a blue prisoner’s uniform and was formally accused of “provocation, proposition, and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts,” according to a court document.
— 100%NOTICIAS (@100noticiasni) December 22, 2018
The document alleges that Mora provoked people to violent acts in protests this year that have demanded Ortega and Murillo step down.
“They had everything planned,” Chavez said. “They waited until Miguel ended his IV Poder program and began to surround the station. Then they entered in force as if they were after a dangerous criminal, they pointed guns at us and they took him away.”
In Friday’s raid, four others were also arrested, including 100% Noticia’s press director of the cable news channel, Lucia Pineda, who is a dual citizen – Nicaragua and Costa Rican.
Chavez said she and Pineda were taken to Nicaragua’s infamous El Chipote prison and interrogated. On Facebook, Chavez said they were separated, taken to prison in different police cars and booked and interviewed extensively.
Chavez was released Friday night. Pineda is still believed to be in custody.
— Wilfredo Miranda (@PiruloAr) December 22, 2018
El Chipote is a maximum security prison with a history of torture and rights violations.
The 100% Noticias station had previously been forced off the air for over 6 days in April, when the protests started, before being allowed to resume broadcasting.
At least 325 people have been killed in the protests, and the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights says some 565 people have been jailed. Thousands more have fled the country in self-imposed exile.
Ortega, 73, alleges that the protests were part of a coup plan to topple him. Opponents accuse him of increasing authoritarianism; of ordering the deadly protest crackdown by police and armed, pro-Ortega civilian groups, and of harshly persecuting government opponents.
On December 19, the Ortega government expelled to two experts of the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) investigating and monitoring alleged human rights abuses by security forces during the protests, sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS).
On Friday, those groups urged the international community to act on Nicaragua.
Also on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the Nica Act, a bill that cuts of resources to Ortega’s government and placing sanctions against countries who assist Nicaragua.
On Saturday, the condemnation against the move on 100% Noticias and the free press in Nicaragua came from abroad, including from freedom of expression officials at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR).
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged Nicaraguan authorities to release the arrested journalists and “end their repressive campaign against the independent media.”
Authorities in #Nicaragua should immediately release the journalists detained following the raid on 100% Noticias and end their repressive campaign against the independent media. #PressFreedom pic.twitter.com/zbytLEWHDU
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) December 22, 2018
And the Inter American Press Association called the Ortega government’s actions “a serious violation against the freedoms of expression and the press.