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Cablegate: Nicarauga: Freedom of the Press Under Attack Again..

VZCZCXRO0544
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #0916/01 2641353
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211353Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4570
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 000916

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN KRAAIMOORE
DEPT FOR DRL MAGGIO
DEPT FOR INR/IIA ARCHULETA
STATE FOR USOAS
STATE FOR USAID

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2019
TAGS: PGOV PLAB PHUM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAUGA: FREEDOM OF THE PRESS UNDER ATTACK AGAIN...

REF: A. MANAGUA 794
B. MANAGUA 626

Classified By: Ambassador Robert J. Callahan for reasons 1.4 (b & d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Freedom of the press in Nicaragua remains
under attack by President Daniel Ortega's ruling Sandinista
National Liberation Front (FSLN). The party has sought to
amend journalism laws in an effort to discourage, if not
outright censor, media reports critical of Ortega and the
party. In addition to the proposed amendments to law, the
FSLN continues to withhold critical financial support to
unsympathetic media outlets while running a systematic
campaign of sometimes-physical assaults against these same
outlets. END SUMMARY

--------------------------------------------- ----
Proposed Changes to Journalism Laws - Censorship?
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) The FSLN, which de facto controls the National
Assembly, has proposed changing Law 372 (titled the Law of
the Journalist's Association), which currently establishes
and regulates the National Journalist's College of Nicaragua
(CPN). The association has been historically controlled by
FSLN-leaning journalists. Under the current law,
participation and membership in this association of
journalists is completely voluntary. If the amendments to
Law 372 pass, all journalists in Nicaragua would be forced to
become members of the CPN. This would be problematic for
independent journalists because the CPN has an ethics code
based on FSLN principles and that is enforced by an Ethics
Code Committee which can punish or expel a journalist from
the association without appeal. Once a journalist is
expelled from the CPN, he or she would no longer be able to
practice journalism, effectively censoring any journalist
critical of the FSLN.

-----------------
Union Cooperation
-----------------

3. (SBU) The Union of Nicaraguan Journalists (UPN), which is
the largest journalism union in the country, gathered in the
National Assembly on September 8 to celebrate the
International Day of the Journalist. At this special session
of the National Assembly, the president of UPN, Roberto
Larios, declared that "a journalist is essentially a
politician who should be on the majority's side in agreement
with the popular struggle." He went on to elaborate that he
did not believe that the role of a journalist was to be
impartial in any political battle. Larios also announced in
the National Assembly that the UPN would be pre-empting the
proposed amendments to Law 372 by joining the CPN. (NOTE:
Larios was installed as leader of the UPN earlier this year
via an election plagued by irregularities. END NOTE)

-------------------------------------
Charges Presented to the UN in Report
-------------------------------------

4. (SBU) On September 10 in Guatemala, Dr. Vilma Nunez of
the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) presented a
report to the United Nations describing deteriorating press
freedoms in Nicaragua. Nunez said in a speech accompanying
the release of the report that if law 372 was "accepted as
compulsory, union members would be in the hands of a body
which may or may not allow the practice of journalism in
Nicaragua." The CENIDH report also stated that if Law 372
was changed in the manner that the FSLN wants, that it would
put Nicaragua in direct violation of its obligations as
signatory to three international agreements that guarantee
political and human rights: The Declaration of Chapultepec,
Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

5. (SBU) The charges leveled by the CENIDH report include that the government had unfairly supported friendly media outlets with financial incentives at the expense of outlets critical of the GON. In addition, members of the business community have been harassed by the government for taking out advertisements in media outlets critical of the FSLN. The CENIDH report details the recent spate of attacks by pro-FSLN gangs against independent journalists, such as the August 8 attack against a journalist filming the Civil Society Coordinator march (see reftel A). It also describes attacks against various media outlets, including Radio La Ley (see reftel B) and Radio Dario, two opposition stations openly critical of Ortega.

-----------------
Ortega's Response
-----------------

7. (SBU) On September 10, President Ortega gave a speech in
front of the Sandinista National Party in which he railed
against the media, claiming that it is "in service of the
empire," referring to the United States. First Lady Rosario
Murrillo, who also holds the unofficial post of Coordinator
of Communication and Citizenship, was more blunt in her
criticism of the media. She referred to the media as "tools
and weapons of the enemy" that must be dealt with by
"remov(ing) all power that it has."

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (C) Nicaragua,s independent media are one of the few
remaining bulwarks against Ortega,s increasingly
authoritarian rule. The recent attacks against independent
journalists during the August 8 march, and the FSLN-inspired
amendments to Law 372 that would require all journalists to
join the CPN to practice journalism, are only the latest
rounds in the ongoing struggle to dismantel free speech in
Nicaragua. In this round, the bellicose rhetoric from Ortega
is being matched by institutional threats to the profession
and direct physical violence against journalists by FSLN
street gangs.
CALLAHAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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