Guatemala City, July 14, 2022 — Nicaraguan authorities should immediately release all staff members of La Prensa held in custody, refrain from filing criminal charges against the outlet’s staff, and cease harassing the outlet, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On July 6, police in Managua, the capital, detained two drivers working for the independent newspaper La Prensa, and also raided the homes of a reporter and a photojournalist working for the outlet, according to news reports, a report by the outlet, and the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Eduardo Enríquez, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
On July 8, a Managua judge ordered the drivers to serve up to 90 days in prison while authorities conducted an investigation, according to that La Prensa report. Enríquez told CPJ that the newspaper is not making public the identities of the drivers or the journalists for security reasons.
Authorities have not disclosed the reason for the drivers’ detention, and their relatives and lawyers have not been allowed to see them in custody, according to those news reports. The arrests came shortly after the drivers and journalists covered authorities’ expulsion of a group of nuns affiliated with a charity recently closed by the government, according to those news reports.
“The government of Nicaragua has shown once again that it has no respect for the work journalists do in the country, and simply wants to continue harassing and censoring the media,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities must immediately release La Prensa’s drivers, stop raiding journalists’ homes, and allow the media to work freely.”
According to Enríquez, police followed one of the drivers to his home after he finished transporting a La Prensa team that had covered the nuns’ expulsion. Authorities arrested the other driver hours later, and police raided the reporter and photographers’ homes in the journalists’ absence, he said.
CPJ emailed the Nicaraguan police for comment but did not receive a response.
CPJ has documented the Nicaraguan government’s attacks against La Prensa, including the seizure of the outlet’s ink and paper in 2019, a police raid and occupation of its newsroom in 2021, and the conviction of the newspaper’s publisher, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, on money laundering charges this year.