Los Angeles, January 8, 2021 — Nicaraguan authorities should cease harassing journalist Aníbal Toruño and allow him to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, national police officers raided Toruño’s home in the northwestern city of León, and broke the home’s front door and other furniture, according to news reports, video of the aftermath of the raid shared on Twitter, and Toruño, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Police did not present a warrant for the raid, and did not confiscate anything from the home, Toruño, director and owner of the radio station Radio Darío, told CPJ.
Toruño said that it was the second time police had raided his home in a week, after officers broke into his home on January 4, saying they were looking for guns and drugs, which they did not find, and threatened one of Toruño’s domestic workers, saying she worked for a drug dealer.
Radio Darío is one of the few independent media outlets in the city of León, and covered protests against President Daniel Ortega’s government that started in April 2018, according to reports. Nicaragua is due to hold a presidential election in November 2021.
“The repeated raids and ongoing harassment of journalist Anibal Toruño show that Nicaraguan authorities have chosen to start off an election year by intimidating critical voices,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “If authorities have any intention of holding open, democratic elections this November, they must allow journalists to work safely.”
Toruño told CPJ that police officers and unidentified individuals frequently park outside his house and the offices of Radio Darío, taking pictures and following his car. On January 6, the journalist posted a video on Twitter of police in riot gear outside his house in León.
“They are constantly taking pictures and videos of us, but this time with the raids, they crossed a line I didn’t expect they would cross,” Toruño told CPJ.
Since 2018, Toruño and Radio Darío have faced threats and harassment, including a police raid on the station and a fire set by a pro-Ortega mob that destroyed the outlet’s office, as CPJ documented.
Toruño went into exile in 2018 for nine months due to death threats he received, and returned to Nicaragua in August 2019, according to news reports.
CPJ emailed the communications office of the Nicaraguan National Police but did not receive any response.