National Police officers are seen in Managua, Nicaragua, on August 24, 2019. National Police have been surveilling and harassing journalist Emiliano Chamorro. (AP/Alfredo Zuniga)

Nicaraguan journalist Emiliano Chamorro faces police harassment and surveillance

March 11, 2020 9:40 AM ET

Beginning in 2019, Nicaraguan National Police officers have surveilled and harassed Emiliano Chamorro, director of the digital news outlet El Portavoz Ciudadano and a former reporter at the daily La Prensa, and his family, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

Chamorro worked as a politics reporter at La Prensa for 26 years, until he was laid off on January 31, 2020, while the outlet struggled financially after the country’s government seized its ink and paper supplies, according to the journalist and CPJ research. He founded the digital outlet El Portavoz Ciudadano in February, and publishes his political reporting there, he said.

He told CPJ that police officers had surveilled and harassed him while he worked at La Prensa, but said such efforts have increased since he launched El Portavoz Ciudadano.

Police officers frequently park in front of his house and record videos of his movements, he said. “Sometimes they even stay the whole day just parked there recording everyone” including his children, he told CPJ.

On March 8, police officers stopped Chamorro near the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua, said he had committed a traffic violation, and proceeded to take him into custody and towed his car, according to news reports and Chamorro. Police detained him for more than an hour and then released him without charge, he said. He told CPJ that the alleged traffic violation should have been subject to a fine of about $8, but instead had to pay a large fine to get his car returned.

Chamorro described the incident as suspicious, saying that the police officers were members of the police special forces, not the traffic police. He said that the officers appeared to be following the directions of an unidentified man dressed in civilian clothing.

“The transit offence was an excuse to harass me,” Chamorro told CPJ.

CPJ emailed the press department of the Nicaraguan National Police for comment but did not receive a reply.

Chamorro frequently covers human rights issues, and told CPJ that he has covered the opposition to the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Also in March 2020, Ortega supporters attacked journalists who were covering a funeral in Managua, as CPJ documented at the time.

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