The Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo regime deprives Nicaraguans of the full exercise of press freedom and freedom of expression, through the closure of media outlets, political persecution, threats, harassment, and the passing of repressive laws, criminalization and imprisonment. CONFIDENCIAL gathers the main milestones of censorship from 2018 to date, with which Ortega and Murillo have tried – unsuccessfully – to silence the voices that criticize him and denounce the violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua and those who promote and defend human rights.
1. Mobs against the first civic protest
On April 18, 2018, in Leon, the Government orders to attack the first civic protest against the reforms to Social Security. Shock forces of the Sandinista Front beat older adults. Mobs also attack protesters and journalists during the protest in the Camino de Oriente sector in Managua.
2. The first assassinations
On April 19, the second day of protests, the police lead the repression with tear gas, bullets and firearms. In the Upoli and Tipitapa sectors, the first three people are killed. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights records 355 deaths between April 2018 and July 2019.
3. Censorship of 100% Noticias and television channels
On the second day of protests, Telcor momentarily suspended four television channels: 100% Noticias, Canal 12, Canal 23 and Canal 51 (of the Episcopal Conference) so that they would not report the repression. Miguel Mora, of 100% Noticias, was warned: “if you do not turn down the heat on your coverage”, there will be consequences. In November, the channel was removed from cable.
4. Rosario Murillo’s hate speech
Vice President Rosario Murillo unleashes a series of insults against the demonstrators in an attempt to minimize them. She called them: minuscule, vandals, coup perpetrators, puchitos, fungi, and bacteria. Sustaining that narrative, in the following months she blames them for “terrorist acts” and a “failed coup attempt”.
5. Paramilitaries assault and destroy Radio Darío in León
In April, a mob of hooded men sent by the Sandinista Front set fire to Radio Darío, the most important local radio station in León. Two of the attackers, who had received 500 córdobas to set fire to the radio station, were killed in the incident. Its journalists went underground or went into exile.
6. The murder of Ángel Gahona, in Bluefields
On April 21, in Bluefields, journalist Ángel Gahona was murdered with a bullet in the head while he was reporting live on the protests. The government prosecuted and convicted two innocent young Creoles, who were later released from prison. Four years later, the murder remains unpunished.
7. War on social networks
After the beginning of the protests, social networks are used to record and denounce the repression. The regime intends to win “the war of the social networks”, manufacturing smear campaigns and threats. And on the other hand, to highlight publications of approval and support for Ortega and Murillo.
8. Reporters assaulted, harassed and wounded
While covering the protests, journalists are assaulted, beaten and injured by Sandinista mobs and National Police officers. The attacks occur despite the fact that they identify themselves as national or international press. More than 1200 aggressions against press freedom are documented since 2018.
9. The last march and the ban on protest
On September 23, 2018, a civic protest is held for the release of political prisoners. Police and paramilitaries shoot at the population and assassinate the young student Matt Romero. Five days later, on September 28, the Police declare the marches “illegal”, imposing a de facto police state.
10. Rejection of assemblies and express pickets
Between October 2018 and July 2019, the Police banned eight marches using the same excuses, including: “they are coup plotters”. The “no” went to businessmen, feminists, defenders, opposition platforms, and students. Faced with the prohibition, “express pickets” are organized and also repressed.
11. Assault on CONFIDENCIAL and 100% Noticias
Between the night of December 13 and the early morning of December 14, 2018, the Police assault and occupy the newsroom of CONFIDENCIAL. The aggression is repeated seven days later against the television channel 100% Noticias, and the illegal arrest of journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau takes place.
12. Television censorship against Esta Semana and Esta Noche
In January 2019, Telcor ordered Canal 12 not to broadcast the programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche, directed by journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and the program Danilo Lacayo En Vivo, by the same presenter. Telcor’s censorship then reached Radio Corporación, and also took the program Onda Local off the air.
13. The de facto police state
The regime imposes police surveillance at the main protest points in Managua to prevent any demonstrations. Anti-riot police remain on guard day and night and also patrol the streets. The population protests from universities and business buildings or launches blue and white balloons.
14. Censorship and layoffs in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic
The Ministry of Health (Minsa) centralizes information on covid-19. Doctors who demand personal protective equipment and point out mismanagement of the pandemic are fired. Between June and August 2020, 31 health workers were fired, according to independent reports.
15. Minsa hides deaths caused by covid-19
The regime denies the impact of covid-19, and freezes the number of deaths per week at national level at one, hiding more than 14,000 deaths in two years of the pandemic. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) declares that the official figures are not reliable and cannot make an “exhaustive assessment” of the management of the pandemic in Nicaragua.
16. Approval of the “Gag Law”
On October 27, 2020, the National Assembly approves the Special Law on Cybercrimes or g “Gag Law”, which aims to regulate internet content and silence voices critical of the regime. It also approves the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents, which blocks funding to civil society.
17. Confiscation of CONFIDENCIAL and 100% Noticias is consummated
In February 2021, the Ortega Murillo regime consummates the confiscation of CONFIDENCIAL and 100% Noticias by illegally transferring the property to the Ministry of Health, to convert them into alleged maternity homes and rehabilitation centers that are guarded by National Police officers.
18. Second assault against CONFIDENCIAL
On the morning of May 20, 2021, officers sent by Daniel Ortega’s regime raid a temporary television studio where the programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche were being produced, in Invercasa. During the raid, cameraman Leonel Gutiérrez (r.i.p.) was detained and interrogated for more than seven hours.
19. Political process against the FVBCh
In May 2021, the regime opens a political case against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, in order to imprison the presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro Barrios. They also imprison three former employees: Walter Gómez, Marcos Fletes and Pedro Vásquez and former director Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, all now convicted of alleged money laundering. Dozens of journalists are interrogated to investigate how they work and are threatened with imprisonment.
20. Judicial persecution and criminalization
In June 2021, the Prosecutor’s Office begins to subpoena more than 60 journalists and media representatives under the pretext of investigating their link to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, but in reality interrogates them about how they work and threatens them. Dozens go into exile for fear of arrest.
21. Political prisoners charged for tweeting and retweeting
The regime uses comments on social networks and media interviews as evidence to judge and convict dozens of political prisoners imprisoned between May and November 2021, during a new political hunt that raised to more than 170 the number of prisoners of conscience in Nicaragua.
22. Threats against doctors
On July 22, 2021, the regime-controlled Ministry of Health (Minsa) summons doctors who report on the covid-19 pandemic and threatens them with cancellation of their licenses. It also mentions the “Gag Law”. Doctors opt for self-censorship, anonymity or exile.
23. Criminalization against independent sources and voices
Between June and November 2021, during a new political hunt by the regime, political analysts and lawyers are arrested for giving interviews to independent journalists. Among those convicted are political scientist José Antonio Peraza, former ambassador Edgard Parrales and lawyer María Oviedo.
24. Police assault and closure of the newspaper La Prensa.
On August 13, 2021, the police raid and illegally occupy the facilities of the newspaper La Prensa, the oldest newspaper in the country, with 95 years of history. It also arrests its general manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, who is convicted months later for the fabricated crimes of money laundering and tax fraud.
25. Ortega’s troll farm
In November 2021, Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, dismantles Ortega’s “troll farm” and eliminates 1440 false accounts and 34 groups operated by the FSLN to manipulate public debate. Twitter and YouTube also purge their platforms of officialist bots and trolls.
26. Condemned for “Gag Law”
Fourteen months after the approval of the “Gag Law”, the regime uses it to sentence the first Nicaraguan (Donald Margarito Alvarenga) to twelve years in prison. As of March 2022, some ten people have been convicted under this law, including citizens who did not even have social networks.
27. Imprisoned and convicted journalists
The regime holds more than 180 political prisoners, among them several linked to journalism. Cristiana Chamorro and Miguel Mora, both journalists and presidential aspirants, were members of the board of La Prensa and 100% Noticias. Also, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, columnist and director of La Prensa, and the newspaper’s general manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann; sports columnist and blogger Miguel Mendoza, and political commentator Jaime Arellano.
28. Raids and kidnapping of musicians and producers
Six days before commemorating the fourth anniversary of the April Rebellion of 2018, the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo orders a new wave of repression against opponents, community leaders and musicians and producers in Managua, Nueva Segovia, Tipitapa, Masaya and Somoto. CONFIDENCIAL recorded — according to the report of civil society organizations and community leaders- that this Tuesday, April 12, four arrests, seven raids and three house sieges were registered. Josué Monroy, member of the Monroy and Surmenage gang, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon at his home in Altamira, Managua. Also Salvador Espinoza and Xóchilt Tapia, of Saxo Producciones, and producer Leo Canales, director of La Antesala, were deported to Costa Rica.
29. Police state resumes
On the commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the Civic Rebellion, which broke out on April 18, 2018, the Ortega regime intensifies the siege against victims of the massacre, released prisoners, opponents and civic leaders in Managua, Tipitapa, Ticuantepe, Diriá, Rivas and other areas of the country, which dawned guarded by riot police and officers mobilized in patrol cars and motorcycles. In addition, the police recaptured for the fourth time the former conscientious objector, Francisco Hernández.
30. Cancellation of 164 NGOs, associations and universities.
The regime of Daniel Ortega, through the Ministry of the Interior, orders the closing of another 25 NGOs, including the Luisa Mercado Foundation directed by the Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez Mercado, exiled in Spain. With these new cancellations, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has canceled, since November 2018, at least 164 legal statuses of organizations, foundations and civil society associations that promoted social, political, economic, human rights, democracy, education and health development in Nicaragua, according to a count carried out by CONFIDENCIAL.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.