Since the reelection of President Daniel Ortega in 2021 for a fourth consecutive term, the independent media has continued to endure a nightmare of censorship, intimidation and threats. Journalists are constantly stigmatised and face harassment campaigns, arbitrary arrest and death threats. Many journalists have had to flee the country.
In Nicaragua there are practically no independent media outlets due to the Ortega regime’s crackdown on the opposition, civil society organisations and the independent press. Only online media, most of whose journalists live in exile, continue to report on government abuses. The few media outlets that still operate within the country, such as Radio Corporación or the Acción 10 newscast, avoid criticising the regime for fear of reprisals.
In 2021, the national police stormed, without a warrant, the premises of the daily newspaper La Prensa, which has been unable to produce a print edition ever since and which continues to be occupied. The newspaper’s director-general, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, and its former director, the former parliamentarian Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, were sentenced to 18 and 20 months in prison, respectively. The offensive against La Prensa was part of a wave of arrests of media directors and journalists, who were charged with money laundering or treason without any evidence ever being presented. The media outlets Confidencial and 100% Noticias had already been subjected to raids and confiscations in 2018. The six journalists declared to be traitors – who were among the 200 or so political prisoners tallied by the independent media in early 2023 – were released by Daniel Ortega in February 2023. Those who left for the United States were stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship.
After the 2018 protests, the Ortega government drafted a series of laws that were adopted in 2020 and have been used to attack opponents and independent journalists since 2021. They included a special cybercrime law that was used to convict Miguel Mendoza, a journalist who had criticised the government on social media. He was charged with spreading fake news and received a nine-year prison sentence. Mendoza was one of the journalists who sought refuge in the United States after his release in February 2023.
The country's economic situation has not improved since the government’s crackdown on protests in April 2018, which has intensified ever since. As a result, investments have been depressed, and the economy is sustained solely by exports, including gold, meat and coffee, as well as by remittances. The domestic economy has lost its dynamism and inflation is rampant.
Emigration has steadily increased, to the point that the number of Nicaraguans arriving at the southern border of the United States rivals those from Central America’s “Northern Triangle” (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). The prevailing mindset within Nicaragua is a mixture of fear of repression and hopelessness, with many young people expressing a desire to leave the country on social media.
It is not safe to practice journalism in Nicaragua. Journalists who remain in the country work with the utmost discretion and do not sign their articles for fear of reprisals. Cameras are often confiscated and there is hardly any reporting in the field. At least four journalists who fled the county to avoid arrest were declared “traitors to the homeland” and were stripped of their citizenship.