Police have been surrounding the offices of the news website Confidencial and the TV channels Esta Semana and Esta Noche since 14 December, a day after a police unit stormed in without a warrant, removed computers and accounting files, and then ransacked the premises.
“We call on the authorities to immediately return the confiscated equipment and material and to allow unrestricted use of the premises that house El Confidencial and other media outlets,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.
“The battle being waged by the Nicaraguan government against the independent media has taken a disturbing turn. We call on President Daniel Ortega to adhere strictly to Nicaragua’s international obligations, which means guaranteeing and protecting press freedom.”
Chamorro went to police headquarters on 15 December to ask to see the warrant justifying the confiscations and to ask how long the police intended to remain outside his media outlets. But he was humiliated and ejected by riot police, without obtaining the least response.
One of Nicaragua’s best known and respected journalists, Chamorro is very critical of the government headed by Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo. A member of the ruling Sandinista Front in the 1980s, when he edited the newspaper Barricada, he has distanced himself from the Sandinistas since the early 1990s and is now often targeted by the government.
The seizure of Chamorro’s media outlets was preceded on 12 December by a government decision annulling the legal status of nine Nicaraguan NGOs, most of them human rights NGOs.
They include the Nicaragua Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), whose offices were also searched and ransacked by the police, Hagamos Democracia, Popol Na, Fundación del Río, which defends the environment, and the Centro de Investigación de la Comunicación (CINCO), which is also owned by Chamorro.
Censorship and attacks against independent media outlets have been intensifying since early November.
RSF issued several alerts and recommendations about the situation of Nicaragua’s independent media after a joint visit with the Inter-American Press Association in August. Nicaragua is ranked 90th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.