Guatemala City, April 21, 2021 – Nicaraguan authorities must stop the police harassment of journalist Kalúa Salazar and allow members of the press to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 19, at about 4:30 a.m., a riot police officer standing outside Salazar’s house in the Caribbean city of Bluefields grabbed her by the neck and attempted to take her phone, and a group of officers blocked her from leaving, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
Salazar said she was trying to leave home to air her morning news show on the radio and television outlet La Costeñísima, where she works as editor-in-chief, when a group of about 30 police officers barred her from leaving.
“I complained to them. I took out my cell phone and started recording and, as I was recording, one of the riot police grabs me from behind. He grabbed me around the neck and shoulders, and he was trying to take my cell phone from me,” Salazar told CPJ, saying that her neck and back hurt following the scuffle, but she did not sustain any serious injuries.
Police have maintained a regular presence outside Salazar’s home since early 2021, according to news reports, human rights organizations, and the journalist. She told CPJ that she believes the harassment is tied to authorities’ apprehensions over the country’s presidential elections in November and desire to silence the work of La Costeñisima, one of the few independent media outlet’s on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.
“It is unacceptable for Nicaraguan police to wage a campaign of surveillance and harassment against journalist Kalúa Salazar and her family, and prevent her from going to work,” said CPJ Central and South Americas Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Nicaraguan authorities must immediately order the police to leave the journalist’s house, allow her to report freely, and refrain from harassing and obstructing members of the press.”
Salazar said she was unable to leave her house on April 19, and broadcast her news show using her phone. The journalist told CPJ that police also frisked her colleagues who came to her home to pick her up, and the officers confiscated their car.
Salazar told CPJ that her family, including her young daughters, have to pass in front of armed police officers every day to leave the house. She said April 19 marked the first time the officers had physically assaulted her, and that they normally photographed her and occasionally tried to intimidate her with their guns.
Salazar has been able to leave her house since April 19, but does so mainly when she does not see officers outside, she said.
In August 2020, Salazar faced a criminal slander lawsuit in relation to her reporting on alleged corruption, as CPJ documented at the time. In September, a judge in Bluefields found Salazar guilty of the charges and ordered her to pay a penalty of about US$219, according to news reports.
CPJ emailed the Nicaraguan national police for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.