May 4, 2018

RSF urges Nicaraguan authorities to investigate reporter’s murder

Credits AFP
Amid continuing protests and violence in Nicaragua, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities to guarantee free speech, ensure that reporters can work safely throughout the country, and shed light on journalist Ángel Eduardo Gahona’s murder, which has not been investigated although it took place more than ten days ago.

Ángel Eduardo Gahona is one of the many victims of a wave of protests and anger than erupted on 18 April. According to the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), at least 48 people have disappeared and 42 have been killed in the course of clashes between (mainly student) protesters and the police, who are accused of using excessive force.

Aged 42, Gahona was based in Bluefields, a town on southern Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, where he produced the local TV news programme El Meridiano and was a correspondent for Nicaragua’s Canal 6 TV channel.

He was covering a protest in Bluefields on Facebook Live on 22 April when he sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head. It is not known who fired the shot but, according to reporters for the La Prensa newspaper, the regular police and riot police were the only people who were armed at the time.

In an interview for Univision more than a week after his murder, his wife, Migueliuth Sandoval, and his son said the local authorities had still not contacted them or provided them with any information.

Sandoval said she has received threats designed to deter her from continuing to demand the truth about her husband’s murder. She also explained that he was reporting on Facebook Live at the time of his death because the government had shut down local TV broadcasting.

The authorities will not end the protests in Nicaragua by silencing journalists and censoring the media, and it is incomprehensible that they have not yet ordered an investigation into Ángel Eduardo Gahona’s murder,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk.

For the sake of his family and all the media in Nicaragua, justice must be done and those responsible for this shocking crime must be quickly identified in order not to encourage more violence against the media. During the current turmoil, the authorities have a duty to do everything necessary to guarantee the safety of journalists and to allow independent coverage of the unrest.

The broadcasts of four TV channels that were providing coverage of the protests – Canal 100% Noticias, Canal 12, Canal 23 and Canal 51 – were taken off the air on 19 April on the orders of the Nicaraguan Institute for Telecommunications (TELECOR). This act of state censorship was condemned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 24 April.

Since the start of the protests, there have been reports of hacking attacks against government media and media that support President Daniel Ortega. The attacks have been claimed by the hactivist group Anonymous.

Nicaragua is ranked 90th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018World Press Freedom Index.