CIVICUS

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Nicaragua

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Last updated on 25.01.2018 at 15:44

Nicaragua-Overview

Civil society in Nicaragua faces growing restrictions as political power has become increasingly concentrated in recent years.

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Nicaraguan government interferes with citizen activism and closes space for opposition

Nicaraguan government interferes with citizen activism and closes space for opposition

Civic space violations continue in Nicaragua, especially after the municipal elections where violence against activists and political parties was reported.

On 20th November 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern after the Nicaraguan government would not permit the IACHR Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Children to visit the country. The government has previously shown its lack of commitment to the regional body by not participating in the ordinary period of sessions held by the IACHR. The Commission stated that the decision to not allow the Special Rapporteur to conduct a visit to the country:

"[M]akes the State of Nicaragua’s commitment to human rights more fragile, by unjustifiably constraining opportunities for open, plural debate on human rights in the country by limiting the presence of the IACHR in these spaces".

Association

Intimidation and harassment of anti-Canal movement

The intimidation and harassment against activist Francisca Ramírez continued at the time of writing. As reported on the Monitor, in August 2017 the Inter American Commission on Human Rights granted Ramírez protection measures due to the grave risks she has faced from those opposed to her mobilising citizens in a movement against the building of the Grand Inter-oceanic Canal. Recently, on 11th December 2017 Francisca Ramírez and Mónica López Baltodano reported being subjected to a defamation campaign due to their activism. The campaign consisted of defamatory messages on social media in which Ramírez and López - who is the legal adviser of the movement - were accused of being government spies within the anti-Canal movement. López has recently resigned from her position, saying that some of the members of the movement have conflicting political interests. Ramírez responded that the government is attempting to dismantle the anti-Canal movement by disrupting it from within but the fight will continue.

Post-election violence against opposition party members

Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) presented a monitoring report of the November 2017 municipal elections and the human rights violations that occurred during and after election day. Regarding the right of association, one specific case of political violence was identified. Supporters of the ruling party attacked a venue where members of an opposition party were celebrating their victory in the municipality of Yali. The attack left two people dead and 16 injured. The injured victims reported that the attack took place close to the police station, yet reported no police response.

Peaceful Assembly

Nicaragua held municipal elections on 5th November 2017. The atmosphere around the elections was tense, as widespread social discontent remained over reported electoral fraud in the 2016 presidential elections and the irregularities witnessed during the planning of the November 2017 local elections. After the elections, there were multiple reports of irregularities and the ruling party won in a majority of the municipalities. The results and alleged irregularities led to a series of protests in the days after, during which violent clashes erupted and rights violations were reported.

On 25th November 2017 - the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women - police blocked and stopped several buses of women who were travelling from several different cities to Managua to participate in a protest against gender-based violence. 

Expression

On 7th December 2017, Instituto Nicaragüense de Telecomunicaciones y Correos (Telcor) - the telecommunications’ regulatory body of Nicaragua - cancelled the operating license of Radio Bosawa, a community radio in El Cua. Telcor alleged the decision was due to the fact that the station had not notified Telcor over changes to its transmission equipment. However, Isidro Hernandez, who was elected on 5th November 2017 as mayor of El Cua, claimed that the Telcor decision to close down the station was made because the ruling party lost the elections in El Cua, and as a result, "will have no control over the radio station".

Association

Freedom of association is recognised in the Constitution of Nicaragua

Freedom of association is recognised in the Constitution of Nicaragua. Nevertheless, numerous gaps and contradictions in General Law on Non-Profit Legal Persons (law no. 147) allow for the exercise of discretionary authority over CSOs. Legal recognition requires approval by the National Assembly, which is currently dominated by the president’s party – the Sandinista National Liberation Front - and, according to civil society actors, selectively blocks or delays applications. Civil society organisations also face harassment and intimidation. For example, three armed men attempted to break into the offices of the Grupo Estratégico por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico in March 2015.

Peaceful Assembly

The Nicaraguan Constitution supports freedom of assembly, and according to the Manual for Individual and Political Rights, gatherings of more than twenty people require prior notice.

The Nicaraguan Constitution supports freedom of assembly, and according to the Manual for Individual and Political Rights, gatherings of more than twenty people require prior notice. Public demonstrations are generally allowed, but police frequently use excessive force against protestors and fail to protect opposition demonstrators against aggressive behaviour by pro-government supporters. According to the local organisation Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), during 2015 many demonstrations and protests were blocked and in some cases even repressed by security forces and pro-government groups. On 8th March 2016, International Women’s Day, a peaceful demonstration led by women’s organisations calling attention to gender inequalities and violence against women was blocked by anti-riot police despite having the required authorisation.

Expression

Freedom of expression is constitutionally recognised, but restrictive media policies have proliferated in recent years.

Freedom of expression is constitutionally recognised, but restrictive media policies have proliferated in recent years. Defamation and libel remain punishable by substantial fines, and the recent reduction in the number of legal cases against journalists is likely due to self-censorship. Unlike radio and print, the television market is dominated by two media conglomerates, one led by a Mexican media mogul which concentrates on entertainment, and the other is controlled by the president’s family and is increasingly used to disseminate government propaganda. The ruling party also owns radio stations and news websites. Critical media outlets and journalists report threats, harassment, and physical violence perpetrated by both government and private actors.There is no direct censorship, but freedom of expression is restricted by a lack of information. Civil society has repeatedly stated that the authorities do not comply with the Access to Information Law of 2007. The president has never held a press conference and communicates instead through cadenas nacionales; -joint broadcast, over various media (usually radio and television), directed at the general population of a state-.The first lady is the only authorised government spokesperson. While independent journalists’ requests for interviews are denied, friendly ones are granted exclusive access to government events and press briefings. Critical media is also financially strangled by the arbitrary allocation of government advertising. No restrictions have thus far been placed on the Internet, which is currently accessed by less than 20% of the population.

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