Nicaraguan journalist William Aragón was recently detained and charged with spreading false news. (Photo credit: Niú)

Nicaraguan police detain journalist William Aragón overnight on false news charge

New York, May 5, 2023—Nicaraguan authorities should drop all criminal charges against journalist William Aragón, let him work free from harassment, and cease detaining journalists for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

At about 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, police arrested Aragón at his home in the city of Estelí and took him to El Chipote Prison in Managua, the capital, according to news reports and Aragón, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

At 1 a.m., authorities brought Aragón to a court where he was charged with “spreading false news” and was allowed to return home at about 2:30 a.m.

Aragón, a freelance journalist who contributes to Nicaraguan outlets operating in exile, was a correspondent for the local newspaper La Prensa for 18 years, until the outlet closed its print operation in 2021, he told CPJ.

“As World Press Freedom Day was being celebrated around the world, Nicaraguan authorities were detaining and harassing journalist William Aragón over his work,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna. “Authorities must stop their relentless campaign to intimidate and threaten the press into silence or exile, and immediately drop any criminal case against Aragón.”

Aragón is presently under “precautionary measures,” a status similar to parole, and is required to report daily to police in Somoto, a town about 50 miles from his house in Estelí. “I will have to pay for a bus daily, which is a financial burden for me,” he said.

If convicted of spreading false news, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

According to the Nicaraguan news website Confidencial, Aragón’s arrest occurred amid a crackdown on alleged opposition figures, during which more than 50 people were detained.

La Prensa and its staff have been frequent targets of President Daniel Ortega’s government. Authorities have raided its employees’ homes, filed criminal charges against its staff, and imprisoned its publisher for 545 days before forcing him into exile.

CPJ emailed the Nicaraguan police for comment but did not immediately receive any response.