The Managua-based daily El Nuevo Diario has been under pressure since the start of the year. One of its reporters, Luis Galeano, has received death threats over two sensational corruption stories he wrote for the newspaper, one in January and one in February. At the same time, its management accuses the authorities of obstructing importation of the inputs it needs to print.
Galeano received an anonymous SMS on the afternoon of 19 February saying he had “72 hours to live.” The same day, a man in his early 30s left a message at the newspaper that accused its management and Galeano of trying to corrupt the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). El Nuevo Diario had been preparing to publish a story the next day implicating the CSE and its president, Roberto Rivas, in corruption.
“I will carry on working but, given the gravity of these threats, my newspaper and I will refer this case to the Inter-American bodies in order to force the authorities to guarantee our protection,” Galeano told Reporters Without Borders. “These threats are not the first. I received similar ones in January after doing a story about corruption in the General Directorate for Taxes (DGI), the General Directorate for Customs (DGA) and the finance ministry.”
El Nuevo Diario accuses the three departments concerned of being responsible for additional harassment aimed at blocking its ability to publish. “We have already had difficulty in obtaining supplies we need, such as newsprint and ink,” publisher Francisco Javier Chamorro told Reporters Without Borders. “And our story on DGI and DGA embezzlement just made things worse.”
Although the Nicaraguan constitution exempts news media from import duties on raw material, a law passed by half of the National Assembly in 2006 restricted the exemption to 2.5 per cent of the individual media’s annual gross income.
“Several media filed appeals against this law on the grounds of unconstitutionality but their appeals are still pending and the law is still in force,” Chamorro said, adding that the newspaper was receiving a “great deal of support from civil society.”
“We urge the authorities to lose no time in providing the protection requested by El Nuevo Diario and Galeano,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We also call for an investigation into the origin of the threats, and for this to include the government departments concerned by the newspaper’s stories. Finally, we call for the repeal of the clearly unconstitutional law that hampers the print media’s operations.”