Managua, July 28, 2020—Nicaraguan authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate the threats sent to journalist Gerall Chávez and his family, and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On July 25, Chávez, a co-founder of the digital media outlet Nicaragua Actual, who lives in exile in Costa Rica, received threatening messages on his personal Facebook page, including an animation that depicted him being killed, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview and posted a copy of the animation on Twitter.
Also on July 25, the journalist’s parents received an anonymous letter at their home in Nicaragua’s Carazo department, which included death threats and was accompanied by a USB stick that also had that animation file.
“It is unacceptable that, even after being forced into exile, journalist Gerall Chávez continues to be threatened for his work, and that now his family in Nicaragua is being targeted as well,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Nicaraguan authorities must take immediate steps to find those responsible for the threats against Chávez and bring them to justice, and ensure his family’s safety.”
On Facebook, accounts with very few followers, which Chávez said made him suspect that they may be fake accounts, tagged the journalist’s personal account in posts that called him a “media terrorist.”
The letter sent to Chávez’s parents was addressed to the journalist, and read in part, “You’ve earned your place in the cemetery of El Rosario. If you come back, we assure you that you will not last long alive […] If you continue saying this bullshit we are going to cut out your tongue. If you don’t come back and keep screwing around we will retaliate against your family,” according to a copy of the letter Chávez posted on Twitter.
Chávez told CPJ he went into exile in Costa Rica in December 2018 after receiving threats and harassment from supporters of the Sandinista National Front, the party of President Daniel Ortega.
He said he and his parents have received threats in the past, but believes they have escalated recently after he published a report on poor conditions at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border.
He told CPJ that he believed the threats may have been issued at the behest of Sandinista National Front officials in El Rosario, the town where his parents live.
CPJ called the El Rosario mayor’s office for comment, but the call did not connect.
In recent years, Nicaraguan authorities have imprisoned journalists and raided news outlets, and government supporters have repeatedly threatened journalists, as CPJ has documented.