MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — International press organizations and the United States government have condemned intimidation and threats against Nicaraguan journalists.
Gerall Chávez, an independent Nicaraguan journalist living in exile in Costa Rica since 2018, said last weekend that he and his family in Nicaragua had received graphic threats. He was threatened again Wednesday and has begun receiving phone calls, he said.
Chávez has been threatened before, but said he believes this intensification is the result of his recent reporting on several hundred Nicaraguans stuck at the border with Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan government has refused to let them return without paying for COVID-19 tests, which the migrants say they can’t afford.
“The Nicaraguan government does not like you saying the truth, but I only do my job,” Chávez said.
Meanwhile, Aníbal Toruño, director of Radio Darío in the western Nicaragua city of León, said his station suffered hours of intimidation by paramilitaries and police. He said their station was surrounded Saturday by police wearing masks and that vehicles belonging to station employees were towed.
Intimidation of the press has increased since anti-government protests began in April 2018. What began as demonstrations against changes to the social security system expanded into a general movement against President Daniel Ortega’s government.
Michael Kozak, the U.S. State Department’s acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said via Twitter Wednesday, “We condemn the Ortega regime’s latest efforts to intimidate Nicaraguan independent media in Leon and elsewhere. Nicaragua’s brave journalists have shown that they will continue to tell the ugly truths that the regime so desperately wants to hide.”
We condemn the Ortega regime’s latest efforts to intimidate Nicaraguan independent media in Leon and elsewhere.
Nicaragua’s brave journalists have shown that they will continue to tell the ugly truths that the regime so desperately wants to hide.
— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) July 29, 2020
Chávez said an anonymous letter and thumb drive containing an animated video that depicted his decapitation were delivered to his family’s home in El Rosario, south of Managua.
Chávez reports for the online outlet Nicaragua Actual.
Nicaragua police had not commented on the threats.
PEN International’s Nicaragua branch, as well as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the threats.
“It is unacceptable that, even after being forced into exile, journalist Gerall Chávez continues to be threatened for his work, and that now his family in Nicaragua is being targeted as well,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick.
Edison Lanza, special rapporteur for freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said on July 26 via Twitter, “the state clearly knows the risk that the journalist and his family face. They have an international obligation to investigate and protect.”
Condeno la amenaza de muerte recibida en #Nicaragua contra el periodista @GerallChavez y su familia en #Nicaragua. El estado sabe claramente el riesgo que corren el periodista y su familia. Tienen la obligación internacional de investigar y proteger. https://t.co/Bv4nDXsquM
— Edison Lanza (@EdisonLanza) July 26, 2020