Nicaraguan journalist flees country after death threats

New York, September 21, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that Nicaraguan journalist Silvia González fled the country last week after receiving repeated threats that referred to her work, news reports said.

“It is alarming that Silvia González has been forced to flee her country even after she publicized the threats made against her, and we urge authorities to intensify their investigations into her case,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Nicaraguan authorities must take all necessary measures to ensure that journalists can report critically without fear of reprisal.”

González, a correspondent for the daily El Nuevo Diario in the northern city of Jinotega, wrote a series of articles beginning in February about the former guerrilla member Gabriel José Garmendia, widely known as “Yajob,” who was killed in February under mysterious circumstances, according to El Nuevo Diario‘s news editor, Luis Galeano. She also wrote about corruption in the local government, he said.

Soon after the publication of the articles, González began receiving anonymous phone calls in which she was told, “If you keep bothering us, we give you 48 hours to live,” press reports said. She also received text messages warning her to stop writing or unspecified people would “give it to her where it hurts most,” news reports said.

At the end of July, a local party member known as “El Pajarito” (The Little Bird) approached González’ 24-year-old daughter and told her, “Tell your mom to be careful because we are going to pass her the check, and we are going to give it to her where it hurts most,” Galeano said. González filed a complaint with the local police, who arrested El Pajarito on August 4 but then released him for lack of evidence after he denied the charges.

González publicized the threats against her with the help of local human rights groups, accusing the police of neglecting her case, press reports said. Fernando Borge, head of public relations for the national police, told reporters that the police had been diligently investigating the case.

In late August, González found a chicken head along with a note with her name on it outside of her home, Galeano told CPJ. She decided to flee the country and asked that El Nuevo Diario not reveal her whereabouts, he said.

This is not the first time this year that an El Nuevo Diario journalist has been targeted. Galeano himself received death threats in February in the lead-up to the publication of a series of articles on government corruption.