Amsterdam, September 10, 2019 -- Nicaraguan authorities should immediately release newsprint and ink supplies belonging to newspapers La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Beginning in late August 2018, customs authorities have repeatedly withheld imported supplies from both La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario without stating any reason for the quarantines, according to news reports and representatives of each outlet, who spoke to CPJ via phone.
On August 30, the Nicaraguan Customs and Administrative Tax Court ruled that the country’s customs authorities must stop withholding imported supplies from La Prensa, according to a report by the paper. La Prensa editor-in-chief Eduardo Enríquez told CPJ that authorities have not complied with the verdict.
The court previously ruled, on June 20, that authorities must release El Nuevo Diario’s supplies, according to news reports.
The customs authority did not formally respond to either court ruling, but on July 8 it released a small portion of the newsprint destined for El Nuevo Diario, which the outlet is using to print a tabloid version, rather than its traditional broadsheet, the paper’s deputy director, Douglas Carcache, told CPJ.
“Officials are openly attempting to throttle major newspapers like La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario by seizing their print materials without cause,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Nicaragua’s Customs Authority must release the supplies they are holding hostage and allow the papers to continue their vital role of informing the public.”
The Customs Authority did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment. The authority’s website returns an error message, and CPJ called seven different phone numbers officially listed by the customs authorities but did not receive any response.
Customs officials are holding approximately 92 tons of paper destined for La Prensa, according to a report by the outlet. La Prensa relies on print advertising for the majority of its income, and the lack of resources has forced the paper to reduce the number of pages printed per issue and to lay off 65 percent of its staff, Enríquez told CPJ.
He said that if the paper cannot get the materials soon, it will be forced to end its print edition entirely, which would necessitate further job cuts.
"We paid everything that there is to pay. We did everything that needs to be done, but still, they didn't give us our complete supplies. There is no reason, neither legal nor technical," Carcache said. “This is an open attack on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”
Since early 2018, the Nicaraguan government has raided the offices of multiple news outlets, ordered cable providers to cut the signals of critical broadcasters, and imprisoned journalists, according to CPJ reporting.