Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mendoza was recently sentenced to nine years in prison. (Oscar Navarrete/AFP)

CPJ condemns ‘harsh’ 9-year sentence for Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mendoza

New York, February 17, 2021 – Nicaraguan authorities should release journalist Miguel Mendoza Urbina from prison immediately, and should ensure that members of the press do not face criminal penalties for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On Wednesday, February 16, in a closed door hearing in the Ninth Criminal District Court of Managua, a judge sentenced Mendoza to nine years in prison along with a ban on holding political office during that time, according to news reports. Last week, the court convicted the journalist of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and disseminating false news, as CPJ documented at the time.

Following his conviction, Mendoza’s lawyer said they intended to appeal the verdict.

“The entire criminal process against Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mendoza has been nothing more than a transparent attempt by authorities to silence anyone who dares to question them,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator. “Mendoza should never have been arrested, nor have spent a single day in prison. This harsh sentence makes it clearer than ever that the government of Daniel Ortega views critical journalists as political opponents to be suppressed.”

Mendoza was detained on June 21, 2021, after police raided his home in Managua, as CPJ documented at the time. He has covered sports for a variety of Nicaraguan outlets for about 30 years, and also shares commentary on politics and human rights issues, including criticism of the government of President Daniel Ortega, on social media.