60 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 129,494 sq. km.
Head of state: Daniel Ortega, since January 2007
Back in power after 16 years in opposition, Daniel Ortega and his entourage have conflictual relations with the majority of the privately owned press, which is largely explained by the deep political polarisation in the country, including within the Sandinista movement itself.
The second half of 2008 saw already serious tensions between the presidency and the owners of the private press deepen still further. The First lady, Rosario Murillo, coordinator of the action group Citizen Power Councils (CPC), stoked things up in the first place through a defamatory campaign against two journalists who originated from the Sandinista movement and were seen as critical. An abusive judicial process, since suspended, was opened at the request of the interior minister against Carlos Fernando Chamorro, leader of the Centre for Investigation and Communication (CINCO), and Sofia Montenegro, president of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM). They were also targeted for personal attack, threats and intimidation from the highest level. A witch-hunt was also launched against non-governmental organisations and privately owned media who were accused of seeking “to destabilise the government” or of “working for the CIA”. This led journalist and editorialist Edgar Tijerino to announce he was giving up making the political comments which had enlivened sports programmes in Nicaragua for decades.
The witch-hunt also extended to intimidation on the part of CPC militants against the daily La Prensa, which faced proceedings for “insults” and “denigration” from three deputies in the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), which is in partnership with the government. The three levelled the same accusations against Santiago Aburto of Canal 12 television and Jaime Arellano, former presenter of Canal 2 television, against whom officials also made constant diatribes, through the pro-government TV Canal 4. Jaime Arellano was summoned by the prosecutor’s office in October 2008 over an interview he had done in August with the former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, which was slammed as “external interference” on the eve of 9 November 2008 municipal elections.