Top journalist who fled Nicaragua says nation’s press threatened

Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro looks at President Daniel Ortega’s policemen standing guard inside a building he owns in Managua on December 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Top journalist who fled Nicaragua says nation’s press threatened

  • ‘They are trying to end the freedom of the press, freedom of expression’
  • Thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country to self-imposed exile, including more than 50 journalists

MEXICO CITY: One of Nicaragua’s most prominent journalists says President Daniel Ortega is working to close any spaces of freedom in the Central American country.
Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who had the offices of his media outlets Confidencial and the television programs “Tonight” and “This Week” seized in December by Ortega’s police, said Monday night that he fled to Costa Rica after receiving information that a plan was afoot to jail him on phony charges.
“They are trying to end the freedom of the press, freedom of expression,” Chamorro said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And if not close, impose censorship and self-censorship. Everything is threatened.”
Chamorro announced his relocation Sunday along with the airing of a much-anticipated interview with former Nicaragua Supreme Court Justice Rafael Solis, who publicly resigned from the court and Ortega’s party earlier this month.
Chamorro said the information about the government’s imminent move against him created a dilemma: He could continue his resistance in Nicaragua knowing he would be dragged into a legal battle against false charges that he couldn’t defend against or he could leave the country and continue doing journalism at a safe distance.
In addition to the confiscation of his offices, the government’s closure of the news channel 100% Noticias later in December weighed on his decision.
“I have evaluated the two circumstances as a much more dangerous trend,” Chamorro said.
At least 325 people have been killed in the suppression of anti-government protests that began throughout Nicaragua last April. Hundreds of people have been jailed, many on terrorism charges that are bringing lengthy prison sentences in what Solis called “political” trials that should be annulled.
Ortega maintains the public demonstrations were part of a coup attempt orchestrated by conservative interests in Nicaragua and foreign powers.
Among those recently arrested and accused of inciting terrorism were journalists Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau of 100% Noticias.
“Nicaragua’s independent press is threatened,” Chamorro said. “It is increasingly difficult to access sources. Sources, too, are being threatened. This isn’t only a threat against freedom of the press, but also a process that threatens freedom of expression.”
After the Sandinistas overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza, Chamorro ran their newspaper, La Barricada, for years. His mother, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, was with the Sandinistas when they took power in 1979, but she ran against Ortega for the presidency and won in 1990.
Most of Chamorro’s journalists continue working in Nicaragua and are being provided security, but they also face harassment and persecution, he said.
Thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country to self-imposed exile, including more than 50 journalists, Chamorro said. In April, journalist Angel Gahona was killed while reporting live via Facebook on protests in the southeastern city of Bluefields.
Last Friday, the newspaper La Prensa ran a blank front page bearing only the question: “Have you imagined living without information?” The government has been holding up its supplies of newsprint and ink, forcing the paper to reduce its page count and take other steps to save resources.
Solis, in his interview with Chamorro, said he finally decided to resign publicly after thinking about it for months, saying he saw no indication that Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, were willing resume dialogue to end the crisis. He had spoken personally to Ortega and Murillo and presented them with several ideas that could lead to a peaceful resolution, but he was ignored, he said.
Members of Ortega’s government have called Solis a traitor since his resignation. He is also living in self-imposed exile in Costa Rica. He said there was tremendous fear within the government and more specifically the judiciary to speak out against Ortega and Murillo.
At one point, Chamorro asked Solis if others in the government shared his view that there was never a coup attempt. “It is not a topic that we ever discussed in these nine months,” he said.


Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

Updated 19 February 2019
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Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

  • Dutt's account was blocked after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her
  • Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence”

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: One of India’s best-known women journalists, Barkha Dutt, launched a scathing attack on Twitter Inc. on Tuesday for temporarily locking her account after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her.
Dutt said some people had posted and circulated her phone number on Twitter, enabling the harassment, which she said included threats of rape and images of genitalia being sent to her phone.
Dutt tweeted some of the threats and images on Monday, and she included phone numbers and names of the men who allegedly threatened her, after which her account was suspended.
She posted her complaint against Twitter in a tweet on Tuesday, after her account was re-activated.
“I would like to place on record my absolute horror and disgust at Twitter’s encouragement of sexual abuse and gender inequality,” said Dutt, a former managing editor at news channel NDTV and a regular columnist with the Washington Post.
Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence.”
Twitter said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and it referred to its rules that users may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.
“If we identify a Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include requiring a user to delete a Tweet, and/or being temporarily locked out of their account before they can Tweet again,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said in an email.
The social media platform is already facing scrutiny in India.
Its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been called to appear before a parliamentary panel this month to discuss initiatives being taken to safeguard citizen’s rights on social media and online news platforms.
The hearing comes soon after the conservative Youth for Social Media Democracy group accused Twitter of left-wing bias and protested outside its office in New Delhi this month.
Dorsey did not appear at a hearing earlier this month.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday the parliamentary panel had written an email to Dorsey, reiterating its demand that he appear at a Feb. 25 hearing.
Twitter declined to comment on whether Dorsey would attend.
Social media giants in India are being put under greater scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party are seeking re-election.
Several social media companies are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.