Nicaragua

Partly Free
48
100
A Obstacles to Access 12 25
B Limits on Content 18 35
C Violations of User Rights 18 40
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free)

header1 Overview

Although users in Nicaragua have wide access to digital platforms and websites, the regime of President Daniel Ortega and its allies have asserted control over the online landscape through the manipulation of information, politically motivated use of copyright claims to remove content, and new legislation that severely punishes users who disseminate supposedly false or harmful content.

The election of Ortega, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), as president in 2006 began a period of democratic deterioration marked by the consolidation of all branches of government under his party’s control, the limitation of fundamental freedoms, and unchecked corruption. In 2018, state forces and informally affiliated armed groups responded to a mass antigovernment protest movement with violence and repression. The rule of law collapsed as the authorities moved to put down the movement, with rights monitors reporting the deaths of at least 325 people, extrajudicial detentions, disappearances, and torture. Arbitrary arrests and detentions have since continued, perceived government opponents report surveillance and monitoring, and talks between the regime and the opposition have foundered.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021

  • In an initiative called the Digital Project, dozens of public employees continued to produce social media content designed to promote the Ortega regime and undermine its critics (see B5).
  • A law adopted in October 2020 requires individuals and entities—including media outlets and civil society organizations—to register as “foreign agents” if they receive foreign funding and engage in any civic or public policy activity. Those registered must also disclose information about their funding and how it will be used (see B6).
  • In December 2020, the Special Cybercrimes Law came into effect, prescribing imprisonment for broadly defined offenses including dissemination of false information, incitement of hatred or violence, and endangerment of national security (see C2).
  • A TikTok user who satirized the Ortega regime was arrested twice during the coverage period, and the parents of an online journalist who had fled the country received death threats (see C3 and C7).
  • In January 2021, the telecommunications regulator published an administrative agreement that requires companies to collect and preserve certain data from their users (see C6).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 3.003 6.006

Despite sustained progress in recent years, less than half of Nicaragua’s population has access to the internet. Unofficial statistics from January 2021 show that 2.78 million people had access in the country, for a penetration rate of 41.7 percent. Mobile phone subscriptions stood at 7.87 million, meaning many people had more than one subscription.1

According to a 2017 report by the Nicaraguan Chamber of Internet and Telecommunications (CANITEL), there has been consistent investment in the expansion of networks and services since 2004, contributing to the installation of more than 13,000 kilometers of fiber-optic and microwave links nationwide.2 The Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Postal Services (TELCOR) stated that growth in access accelerated over the last two decades, from 15,559 connections in 2000 to 207,275 in 2013.3

In November 2020, Central America was devastated by Hurricane Iota, and Nicaragua was the most affected country. TELCOR disrupted communications systems that it managed, including internet services, due to breakdowns in the power supply, destruction of fiber-optic lines, and wind damage to transmission towers.4

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 0.000 3.003

Access to the internet is expensive, and there are large geographical disparities.

Nicaragua’s 2021–22 minimum wage ranged from 4,000 córdobas ($110) to 9,000 córdobas ($260) a month, depending on the sector. Financial pressure has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic; official statistics showed a slight growth in unemployment during 2021, to about 4.8 percent, while 46.3 percent of the population was underemployed or informally employed, earning between 25 and 50 percent of minimum wage.1

Despite these hardships, the cost of internet service in Nicaragua remains among the highest in the region.2 Analysis from Cable.co.uk found that monthly fixed-line broadband service in the country costs $52.50, constituting between 21 and 39 percent of the average monthly salary of someone making minimum wage.3 Mobile connections are notably cheaper; the least expensive mobile data plans in Central America can be found in Nicaragua, where 1 GB of data costs $0.94 on average.4

Connectivity in rural areas is low, partly because it is not profitable for service providers to develop infrastructure there; between 71 and 89 percent of the population living in these areas do not have internet access.5 Women in rural areas are even less connected, as women in general face a disparity in access to technologies such as mobile phones.6

Little information is available about Indigenous peoples’ internet access, though civil society organizations have created some initiatives to connect traditionally Indigenous communities.7

In 2015 the Ortega regime promoted a project aimed at establishing Wi-Fi access points in municipal parks throughout the country.8 The project was proposed by the National Electricity Transmission Company (Enatrel) and managed by each municipality.9

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 5.005 6.006

There have been a few instances in which the government restricted internet access, though none were reported during the coverage period. The most recent was in 2018, in the context of massive antigovernment protests.1 Internet disruptions occurred on a regional basis that year, including in the departments of Jinotega, Matagalpa, León, and Masaya, and lasted around a day. The outages coincided with attacks against civilians by security forces and allied armed groups. Mobile service was also disrupted,2 and the government blocked Wi-Fi signals in public parks where protesters had connected their devices to report on the demonstrations.3

In December 2020, the Special Cybercrimes Law came into effect (see C2).4 According to the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), the law authorizes TELCOR and the Foreign Ministry to block websites, networks, applications, and other online and communication services.5

In terms of international connectivity, the country is linked to global internet traffic by the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS) submarine cable.6

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 4.004 6.006

Nicaragua's General Telecommunications Law stipulates the rules and procedures to be followed in the telecommunications sector, classifying the services and describing the types of permits or concessions that must be obtained for operation. It also states that there is free competition, ostensibly allowing any interested company to take the steps to establish itself in the country. There are at least three mobile service providers,1 in addition to others that provide internet service for homes and businesses.2 However, the market is led in practice by two providers, Claro and Tigo. Claro, owned by the Mexican telecommunications giant América Móvil, dominates both the fixed and mobile broadband sectors, while Tigo, held by Luxembourg-based Millicom, has captured around 33 percent of the mobile market and 10 percent of the fixed-line market.3

Licenses or concessions to provide internet service may only be granted to Nicaraguan individuals or legal entities, and in the case of companies, at least 51 percent of shares must be held by Nicaraguan nationals. The provider is also required to sign an agreement with each customer that is fair to both parties.4

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 0.000 4.004

TELCOR is the main regulatory body for telecommunications providers.1 Legally, it is meant to operate as a decentralized entity with independent assets,2 but in reality, it fails to uphold principles of neutrality and independence. TELCOR is essentially a government institution, and it responds to government policies. The highest authority within the institute is appointed by the president, and according to a 2006 constitutional reform, all such appointments must be examined and approved by the National Assembly, though this has never occurred in practice.3 Transparency is also lacking; TELCOR’s website has not been updated since 2011.4

In May 2020, TELCOR amended a 2013 administrative agreement to require that telecommunications providers inform the body of their appointments for positions including information technology heads, financial managers, regulatory managers, and heads of security. Failure to do so can result in administrative or criminal sanctions.5

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 6.006 6.006

No evidence that the government or service providers block or filter content has been reported. Though the 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law allows TELCOR and the Foreign Ministry to block so-called dangerous websites, the government does not appear to have the capacity to implement and enforce such blocking.1

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 1.001 4.004

The Nicaraguan government and its allies have used copyright laws, including the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), to secure the removal of content produced by independent media outlets.1 Because only the progovernment media sector, much of which is controlled by Ortega’s family and others linked to the regime, has access to events and interviews with state officials, independent outlets depend on images and recordings from these sources, which then lodge copyright complaints.2 For example, in March 2020 two YouTube accounts of the independent news broadcaster 100% Noticias—whose license was revoked in 2018—were shuttered after a progovernment outlet lodged complaints over their use of photos and video footage.3 Google has reported receiving other such requests; in one case, a channel that is critical of the regime had 42 videos with footage from Ortega-aligned Canal 4 removed. Canal 4 had requested the takedowns, but could not show evidence of a lawsuit, which led to the videos being restored.4

Police have also reportedly coerced government critics into deleting videos or photos that depict antigovernment protests from their devices.5

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 1.001 4.004

Nicaragua lacks independent bodies that ensure oversight of content restriction processes. Authorities do not act transparently when it comes to the removal of online content.1 Under the 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law, decisions to block websites are to be made by TELCOR and the Foreign Ministry, both of which are effectively dominated by the presidency.2 For content removals that rely on the DMCA, a specific procedural framework is established in the US law itself, which is often invoked by Nicaraguan entities targeting material like YouTube videos.3

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 2.002 4.004

Journalists, commentators, and ordinary users often practice self-censorship. Recently adopted laws may further deter free expression online (see C2).1 These include the 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law and a January 2021 amendment to the constitution that allows life imprisonment for broadly defined “hate crimes,” which critics believe will be used to punish opponents of the regime.2

High levels of state surveillance have also contributed to self-censorship,3 as has extralegal pressure by forces aligned with the regime (see C5 and C7).

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 1.001 4.004

The government and its allies manipulate online sources of information through a variety of means. In recent years, members of the president’s family and other close government associates have purchased media outlets, including some that operate online. This has undermined the independence and credibility of the outlets in question, allowing regime forces to control the broader public discourse through their articles and social media posts. The government has also directed specific coverage; in 2018, for example, after mass protests erupted over a plan to lower pensions while raising social security contributions, Vice President Rosario Murillo—Ortega’s wife—instructed progovernment outlets such as news site El 19 Digital not to report on the movement.1

The regime also organizes inauthentic social media activity to serve its political interests. In an initiative known as the Digital Project, more than 100 employees from various public institutions work from the Nicaraguan Post Office building to produce content and post it to multiple social media platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Similar cells operate in other public buildings in different municipalities. One of their mandates is to create and disseminate false news and information to shed a positive light on the Ortega regime, smear critics, and cause anxiety—for example by insinuating that police will arrest someone. Murillo reportedly first ordered the creation of these “troll factories” in 2018.2 Automated accounts from both the progovernment and antigovernment camps emerged during the mass protests that year, though the regime employed more bots, many of which reportedly originated in Venezuela.3

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has published little information about infections on its website or social media. Daily reports are limited to the total number of infections throughout the pandemic and the number of people who have recovered, have active cases, or have died. Other information—such as a breakdown by location and age group, or the number of imported cases—is omitted.4 The messaging from the Ministry of Health and the regime in general has also lacked credibility; reports throughout the pandemic have attributed the increasing number of deaths to cases of “atypical pneumonia” rather than COVID-19.5 Supporters and allies of President Ortega have filled the vacuum of official information with false and misleading claims on social networks and messaging services,6 evidently attempting to confuse the population and reduce confidence in independent media.

At least six media initiatives have sought to counter the distorted online information landscape in recent years, though many were eventually forced to close due to financial difficulties (see B7).7

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 1.001 3.003

Independent media outlets proliferated after the 2018 protests; between April 2018 and May 2020, at least 24 outlets were reportedly established.1 However, such enterprises and individual bloggers face significant financial hurdles. Since they do not receive advertising funds from the state, their financing is unreliable, resulting in frequent fluctuations in salaries. Journalists at independent outlets also tend to take on multiple roles.2 Even as new outlets were created following the 2018 protests, many online journalists abandoned the profession due to low incomes and the multiple threats and obstacles associated with their work.

During the coverage period, the government launched several court cases or tax investigations against media executives, seizing newsrooms and venues where media offices are located. Those affected include traditional outlets with a large online presence.3

Regime-instigated censorship on YouTube can affect the monetization capacity of independent media outlets that rely on the platform, ultimately silencing their reporting.4

In October 2020, the government enacted Law No. 1040, the Law on the Regulation of Foreign Agents, which obliges any individual or legal person that participates in any type of civic or public policy activity and receives foreign funds to enroll in the Registry of Foreign Agents. Article 9 of the law explains that “foreign agents” must then inform the government in advance on the origins of any funds they will receive and how said funds will be used.5 The government will have the authority to evaluate and determine whether the information is suitable, and as a result of these rules, “foreign agents” are prohibited from receiving anonymous donations. If an entity does not comply or register as a foreign agent after receiving notification from the relevant authority within a set period of time, the law authorizes the government to restrict its activities connected to the funding in question, impose fines, and cancel its legal status.

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 2.002 4.004

The vast majority of traditional media outlets are controlled by people close to the government and maintain a progovernment editorial line. Those that have not been bought or co-opted by the government and its allies have difficulty accessing official information and remaining financially viable. Many traditional independent outlets in the country have gone bankrupt, and their former journalists have started new digital enterprises. Since 2018, at least 24 new outlets have been established, most of them online (see B6).1 According to the International Press Institute, at least 20 television or radio outlets that faced censorship transitioned to online operations between April 2018 and April 2021.2

The positive effects of the proliferation of digital outlets have been offset by worsening online disinformation, especially during the pandemic. The state has not been transparent and avoids open releases of health statistics; in the absence of official information, rumors and misinformation spread online.3 The independent initiative Observatorio Ciudadano was created in response,4 using social media and its website to publish numbers of new infections, deaths, and recoveries from COVID-19, as well as the number of deaths from pneumonia that are suspected to be from COVID-19.5 However, after the coverage period in June 2021 members of the organization stated that they had less monitoring capacity due to the repressive political environment, with fear and self-censorship effectively limiting the information they are able to collect.6

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 4.004 6.006

Activists who organize online have faced arrests and other forms of persecution,1 particularly during the 2018 protests.2 Authorities at that time also restricted access to internet and mobile service (see A3).

Despite such obstacles, citizens still engage in digital activism to demand accountability and greater transparency from the government, as well as to call for the release of political prisoners and an end to the Ortega regime. Some movements on social media focus on environmentalism,3 while others have documented human rights violations perpetrated by those close to the regime.4 In April 2020, Nicaraguan dissidents commemorated the second anniversary of the 2018 uprising through virtual events including a concert broadcast on Facebook Live, as the pandemic and the threat of state interference precluded large in-person gatherings.5

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 2.002 6.006

Constitutional rights are not respected in practice, and the judiciary is dominated by regime loyalists.1

The constitution nominally protects the fundamental rights of freedom of expression (Article 30) and access to information (Article 66). Although there is no explicit mention of press freedom, citizens have the right to access “social mass communications media,” and there is a declaration that “public, corporate, or private mass communications” will not be subject to prior censorship (Article 68). However, the “right to inform” is subject to subsequent responsibilities established by law (Article 67). An Access to Information Law (Law No. 621) was enacted in 2007.2

The formal rights outlined in the constitution are often violated. For example, between the outbreak of the 2018 protests and July 2019, there were a reported 1,080 cases in which freedom of expression was violated, including incidents involving the intimidation and detention of journalists (see C3 and C7).3 More than 90 journalists had fled the country as of April 2020.4

In March 2019, the opposition-oriented Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) and the Ortega government signed an agreement to strengthen and guarantee the rights of citizens; the pact formed the basis for a set of protocols that included protecting the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom.5 In March 2021, however, the ACJD stated that the government had not met its obligations and demanded compliance.6

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 1.001 4.004

The 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law contains significant punishments for online activities that are protected under international human rights standards. Article 28 prescribes two to four years in prison for the use of information technologies to slander a person’s honor or prestige or divulging a person’s secrets. Article 29 punishes anyone who uses information technologies to praise a crime or its perpetrator. Both provisions are written broadly enough to allow for the suppression of freedom of expression online. Article 30 assigns penalties of two to four years in prison for the dissemination of “fake news,” but it does not differentiate between deliberate disinformation and misinformation that is shared without malicious intent. The article also fails to explain how a news article can be labeled as fake, leaving ample room for abuse. The penalty increases to three to five years in prison if the content “incites hatred or violence, or puts at risk economic stability, public health, national sovereignty or law and order.” In addition, users can face four to six years in prison for revealing “unauthorized” information, or eight years for accessing or spreading information that could harm national security.1 The law, which is applicable to both social media users and media outlets, could be used as a tool to punish dissent and control the flow of information online.2

Nicaragua’s existing penal code already criminalized defamation, insult, and contempt, which are punishable by fines ranging from 100 to 300 days’ worth of wages. These provisions could apply to online speech, though the code does not specify.3

The Sovereign Security Law of 2015 labels cyberattacks as threats to “sovereign security,”4 which is defined as the peaceful existence and permanent unity that gives stability and prosperity to Nicaraguan citizens, encompassing matters such as education, health, and the economy. However, the law is overly broad.5 Members of CENIDH had filed an appeal against the Sovereign Security Law in 2016 on the grounds that it violated constitutional rights.6

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 3.003 6.006

Individuals have faced criminal punishment for their online activities in practice. During the coverage period, Kevin Monzón, a TikTok user with nearly 40,000 followers as of December 2020, was subjected to short-term detentions and interrogations for his posts satirizing the Ortega regime.1 He had first been detained without charge for five days in 2019. His second arrest occurred in July 2020, when he was falsely accused of threatening a government supporter with a weapon. After being detained for six days, he was released to house arrest for four months while awaiting trial, which ultimately resulted in an acquittal. He was then detained a third time in December 2020 and held for six days without charge. Police have indicated that the arrests were linked to his social media activity.2

In 2021, prosecutors’ offices mounted investigations against journalists and political activists ahead of the November general elections.3 In May 2021, the office of the news site Confidencial, which has been critical of the Ortega regime, was raided, as was the home of its director, Carlos Fernando Chamorro. Several of the site’s journalists were detained.4 Other journalists have been summoned by prosecutors as part of a money laundering case against would-be opposition presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro, Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s sister, and threatened with charges under the Special Cybercrimes Law.5

In December 2018, journalists Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora of the online outlet 100% Noticias were arrested for their coverage of that year’s protests and accused of incitement and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and hate crimes.6 Both were released from detention through an amnesty law in June 2019, though they were never tried or convicted.7

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 4.004 4.004

Nicaraguan authorities do not place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption, and the use of encrypted messaging and clandestine meetings has increased due to the dangers associated with expressing dissent publicly.1 SIM-card registration is not required.2

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 2.002 6.006

The authorities reportedly focus their surveillance efforts on critics of the regime, especially independent journalists, rather than employing mass surveillance.1

Under the 2020 Law on the Regulation of Foreign Agents (see B6), individuals and entities that are obliged to register as “foreign agents”—including civil society organizations and media outlets—would be subject to extensive government scrutiny.2 The 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law could also facilitate surveillance; according to CENIDH, the law implies that digital platforms would be closely monitored for violations, and government supporters have reportedly encouraged citizens to inform the authorities of potentially illegal content.3

Even before the passage of those two laws, nongovernmental organizations had alleged that the government monitored their online activities.4 A 2018 report by Haaretz noted that the Nicaraguan government had purchased spyware and intelligence-gathering tools from Israeli companies, though experts have not been able to say definitively which software is in use.5 Public employees who are deployed as online “trolls” reportedly track public activity on websites and social media platforms, along with domestic and international media outlets, and report back to Vice President Murillo.6

Authorities frequently seize detainees’ devices. As of July 2021, after the coverage period, nearly 30 people, including opposition candidates, had been arrested ahead of the November general elections. Those detained have reportedly had their devices seized, and some were required to share their passwords.7

There are some legal protections against unchecked surveillance, though it is unclear whether they are observed in practice. Article 13 of the 2015 Sovereign Security Law stipulates that no state security institution may engage in political espionage, intercept communications without judicial authorization, or improperly disclose any type of information that is acquired through the exercise of its functions, among other prohibitions.8

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 3.003 6.006

The 2007 Access to Information Law guarantees the protection of personal data,1 and a Law on the Protection of Personal Data was adopted in 2012,2 but the Personal Data Protection Authority (DIPRODAP) that was meant to ensure compliance with the legislation has yet to be established.3

Article 24 of the 2012 law allows the exceptional collection and processing of personal data—without the consent or awareness of the data subject—for administrative purposes, including retention for a maximum of five years.4 The article also grants these functions to the police and the army if necessary to guarantee national security, but it does not clarify whether they would similarly be allowed to keep the data for five years. The law adds that a company cannot disclose and transfer any private information that it stores to a government officer without judicial authorization.5

In January 2021, as part of the implementation of the Special Cybercrimes Law, TELCOR published Administrative Agreement 001-2021 on Regulations for the Preservation of Data and Information. This regulation has raised concerns among several organizations due to its threats to the privacy of data subjects. Article 3 requires telecommunications companies to collect and preserve any data necessary to (a) trace a communication; (b) identify the recipient of a communication; (c) identify the time, date, and duration of a communication; (d) identify the type of communication, such as mobile phone, internet, or landline phone; (e) identify the equipment used to conduct a communication; and (f) identify the geolocation of the equipment used for a communication. In addition, companies offering community repeaters and trunk links must be able to submit information on the services they provided.6

This administrative agreement further requires companies to store the relevant information for up to 12 months, subject to requests from the police or prosecutors preceding a warrant. Once one of these entities requests a warrant, a judge can order a variety of actions, such as the immediate delivery of information contained in the systems, the preservation of the information and integrity of the systems for up to 90 prorogue days, access to the system, the extraction of the information, denial of access to the information, or any other applicable measure necessary to obtain and preserve the data.7

Under the 2010 Law on the Prevention, Investigation, and Prosecution of Organized Crime, service providers are required to design their systems in a way that would facilitate surveillance.8 The law also requires companies to maintain a record of their users that can be accessed by authorities investigating or prosecuting a crime.9

Between July and December 2020, Facebook received one emergency request from the Nicaraguan government to disclose information on an account, which was granted.10

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 2.002 5.005

Internet users, and journalists in particular, have been subjected to intimidation and physical assaults in connection with their online activity. For example, during their six-month detention starting in 2018, 100% Noticias journalists Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau were allegedly tortured.1 Pineda now lives in exile in Costa Rica, but her reporting team in Nicaragua still faces threats, surveillance, and other abuses by authorities.2 Gerall Chávez, a founder of the news site Nicaragua Actual, continued to receive death threats and harassment over social media after fleeing to Costa Rica in late 2018; in July 2020, his parents also received death threats.3

Carlos Salinas, a journalist who had worked for El País and the news site Confidencial, also had to leave the country in 2018 and now lives in exile in Mexico. In an interview with El País, he noted that the government used his homosexuality to spread defamatory claims about him on social media.4 He explained that regime supporters altered pictures of men to support assertions that he had physically abused his partners. Before leaving the country, Salinas said he was at times confined to his home due to the danger of physical violence while authorities decimated his reputation online.5

US-Austrian freelance journalist Carl David Goette-Luciak similarly endured extralegal intimidation while working in Nicaragua in 2018. Doxxing, calls for violence against him, and the use of bots to share such messages were among the methods reportedly employed to threaten him.6 He was eventually arrested and deported in October 2018.7

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 1.001 3.003

Independent media outlets in Nicaragua have been subjected to cyberattacks since the 2018 protests.1 Confidencial and the newspapers La Prensa and Hoy reportedly faced distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which prevented legitimate users from accessing their coverage. At the beginning of the protests in April 2018, for example, an attack on La Prensa‘s website was detected and thwarted, but a parallel attack aimed at Confidencial left it inaccessible for seven hours. The perpetrators were not identified, but some suspected state actors.2 In May 2019, La Prensa’s website experienced a DDoS attack that successfully disabled it for more than 24 hours.3

Governmental entities have also been subject to cyberattacks, which are commonly linked to the hacktivist group Anonymous. In August 2020, the group claimed credit for an attack on the COVID-19 database of the Ministry of Health, which allowed the public to see that the government had been providing misleading information about the virus’s spread and publicizing inaccurate counts of COVID-19 infections in the country.4 Since 2018, Anonymous has also struck the websites of entities such as the Central Bank of Nicaragua, the Ministry of Finance and its Financial Analysis Unit, the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism, the National Assembly, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Civil Aviation Authority, among others, while also targeting government-linked media outlets like Canal 6.5

In September 2020, the government approved a National Cybersecurity Strategy by decree.6

On Nicaragua

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  • Global Freedom Score

    30 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    48 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Not Free
  • Networks Restricted

    No
  • Websites Blocked

    No
  • Pro-government Commentators

    Yes
  • Users Arrested

    Yes