CIVICUS

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Nicaragua

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 10.12.2018 at 08:55

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Nicaragua-Overview

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

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State continues to undermine the right to protest and expression

State continues to undermine the right to protest and expression

According to the newspaper La Prensa, new cases of attacks against journalists and independent media outlets have been recorded since the last report.

Association

Between 25th to 27th October 2018, the president of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Nicaragua and held meetings with CSOs, representatives of international bodies and foreign missions. The IACHR has however been unable to meet with government representatives as their requests for meetings have gone unresponded. After the visit, the IACHR representative highlighted her concern for the growing acts of intimidation against women HRDs. In relation to women HRDs, the situation in which they are held in prison is also a cause of concern, after receiving reports of overcrowding, lack of basic health assistance, unsanitary conditions, and cases of direct violence inside prison as reported in the last update. Afro-descendant communities in the Caribbean region of the country also reported targeted attacks and harassment to those who participated in the protests.

In a separate development, on 26th November 2018, the government deported Ana Quirós, director of the Center for Information and Health Advisory Services (CISAS), feminist and LGBTQ community leader.  Quirós is originally from Costa Rica but was granted Nicaraguan nationality more than 20 years ago. The IACHR expressed its concern for the situation in which Quiros was detained, not allowing her to communicate with family or lawyers until she was presented to Costa Rican authorities in the border with Nicaragua with a deportation decision.

Peaceful Assembly

The National Police rejected a request by the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (UNAB) and feminist movements delivered on 21st November, to hold a march that was planned for the commemoration of the International Day against Violence against Women on Sunday, 25th November. The police stated that "it does not authorise public mobilisations by people, associations or movements that participated and are being investigated for their actions in the failed coup attempt that has left behind trauma, mourning, pain to Nicaraguan families."

According to the UNAB, "it is absolutely false that the march was intended to promote ‘vandalism and terrorism’. 

The Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern regarding the measures that the Nicaraguan government is using to ban any kind of demonstration or social protest. The IACHR has consistently stated that "social protest and freedom of expression can’t be seen as a threat in democratic societies". 

Expression

According to the newspaper La Prensa, new cases of attacks against journalists and independent media outlets have been recorded since the last report. The first was reported on 24th November 2018 when police officers attacked Gustavo Jarquín of Radio Corporación after he refused to deliver his cell phone to the officers. In another case registered this same day, the Director of the 100% Noticias Channel, Miguel Mora and his wife Verónica Chávez received death threats from a police officer. In this same event, Miguel Mora's driver, Carlos Navarro, was arrested and released soon after.

Another case was reported on 8th December 2018 when Rene Cuadra, cameraman of 100% Noticias, was released after reporting that he was locked in torture cells in El Chipote for more than two hours and was forced to strip naked and do squats while the police interrogated him looking for information about Miguel Mora.

The CENIDH condemned the attacks against Miguel Mora and his wife and demanded that the Ortega government cease this repression. CENIDH also announced that as of November 2018 they registered more than 100 requests for precautionary measures to Nicaraguan journalists. They have also received complaints from Radio Mi Voz and Radio Diario after the police illegally raided their facilities.

On 5th December, Reporters Without Borders published a statement expressing its concern in relation to freedom of the press in Nicaragua by saying it is in great danger as journalists have been victims of police brutality and abuse of authority in order to silence them for being "too critical".

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.