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Area: 130,000 sq. km.
Population: 5,208,000
Language: Spanish
Type of state: republic
Head of state: President Enrique Bolaños

Nicaragua - 2003 Annual Report

Press freedom was eroded somewhat during the new president’s anti-corruption campaign, which mostly targeted his predecessor.

The new president, Enrique Bolaños (a former vice-president), spent much of 2002 pursuing his predecessor, Arnoldo Alemán, subsequently president of parliament, who was accused of embezzling nearly $100 million. The media, whose relations with Alemán were difficult during his time in power (1997-2002), gave wide coverage to the scandal. Some Alemán supporters attacked journalists and media for their coverage.
The new government closed the radio station La Poderosa, the former president’s mouthpiece, for alleged administrative irregularities, conveniently depriving Alemán of a platform.
In April, the state-owned TV station was temporarily closed after Alemán was accused of having diverted funds from the housing ministry to settle the station’s large debts. The new government’s decision to place state advertising in the media according to audience size or readership led to the closure in September of the daily La Noticia, which was said to have got a disproportionate amount of advertising under Alemán, who it supported.
A proposed law to punish "insults" by five years in prison was dropped in October, along with another aimed at defending "honour, reputation and the family."

Six journalists physically attacked
Sheila Cano, Raul Mayorga and Guilbor Bravo, of the TV station Canal 2, William Roiz of Canal 4 and Marianela Flores and Juan Mairena of Canal 10 were physically attacked and insulted by supporters of ex-President Alemán while covering a demonstration in the northwestern town of Malpaisillo on 2 September 2002. The media had widely covered corruption scandals involving Alemán.

Pressure and obstruction
Luis Felipe Palacios, of the daily La Prensa, was questioned by police in Managua on 18 July 2002 after he wrote about the involvement of an army officer in money-laundering and arms smuggling. He was asked about his sources and his photographer, Manuel Esquivel, was made to destroy his film because he had not asked permission to take pictures. The national police chief apologised to the two journalists on 31 July.
The Managua radio station La Poderosa shut down on 11 October after its licence was cancelled by the state broadcasting authority Telcor on grounds it was going out on a frequency that belonged to a Catholic organisation but had been illegally given to Coinsa, an association controlled by former president Alemán. The station had appealed to its listeners to support Alemán against accusations of corruption.
The Catholic Church’s leader, Cardinal Miguel Obando, denounced the licence withdrawal as "a blow to press freedom" and national ombudsman Benjamín Pérez said the closure was "mishandled." Police seized the station’s equipment on 14 October, saying it had been illegally obtained.
A former guerrilla fighter against the 1979-90 Sandinista government, Tirso Moreno, entered the Managua offices of the daily La Prensa on 22 October while drunk and fired shots. He accused the paper of attacking Alemán and then held 13 journalists hostage for several hours. He was later charged with "kidnapping" and "endangering people’s lives."

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see also
2003 Africa Annual Report
2003 Asia Annual Report
2003 Europe Annual Report
2003 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report