Guatemala City, February 9, 2022 – Nicaraguan authorities should not contest the appeal of sports journalist Miguel Mendoza Urbina, and should cease filing criminal charges against members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
In a closed-door trial on Tuesday, February 8, Mendoza was convicted of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and disseminating false news, according to news reports. The journalist’s lawyer, Maynor Curtis, told the news website Confidencial that Mendoza intends to appeal the conviction. Prosecutors asked for a nine-year prison term, and Judge Luden Martínez Quiroz is expected to issue a sentence at a hearing on February 16, Curtis said.
“The fact that a journalist could spend almost a decade in prison simply for expressing his opinion shows just how far Nicaraguan officials are willing to go to silence any critical voices that dare to undermine their control of information,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, in New York. “Miguel Mendoza has committed no crime, and Nicaraguan authorities should end the absurd criminal proceedings against him and release him immediately.”
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.
Curtis told Confidencial that authorities’ evidence included at least 30 tweets and several Facebook posts by the journalist. He also said that Mendoza has been kept in isolation and has been subject to regular interrogations and physical mistreatment in detention.