After outcry, Nicaragua drops case against critical editor

The Nicaraguan attorney general’s office has dropped a criminal investigation into a nonprofit journalism organization headed by the prominent editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro Barrios after finding no evidence of wrongdoing. A remarkable number of media groups and individuals, including CPJ, spoke out against the investigation as politically motivated. 

“Thanks to this wave of national and international solidarity, this case set a precedent: When citizens are right and express the truth, especially when they are driven to resist and not to be intimidated, sooner or later the government will have to take a step back,” Chamorro wrote in the newsweekly Confidencial.

In September, the attorney general’s office began investigating more than a dozen nonprofits on allegations that they had illegally funneled money from foreign governments to other civil society groups. Chamorro’s Center for Media Investigations–which promotes media research and investigative journalism–was among the organizations being investigated.

Chamorro–director and host of the television show “Esta Semana” (This Week), host of the radio program “Onda Local,” and editor of Confidencial–has been a harsh critic of President Daniel Ortega’s administration. Other groups targeted in the attorney general’s probe were also considered government critics. Prosecutors had subjected Chamorro to extensive questioning, and police had seized documents and computers from the center.

Saying the investigation appeared to be aimed at restricting critical news coverage, CPJ sent Ortega a letter in October calling on his government to drop the case. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon followed up with a piece in the January 15 edition of The New York Review of Books.

Finally, on January 22, authorities announced that they won’t pursue criminal charges against Chamorro’s center or the other groups, although prosecutor Ana Julia Guido turned the matter over to the Ministry of Government for investigation of possible administrative irregularities.

Chamorro warns the case might not be over. “If there is a political decision to further persecute the center and the other groups, it could end up in a government intervention,” he told CPJ.