Internet freedom declined in Nicaragua amid a November 2021 electoral period characterized by a harsh clampdown on opposition figures, dissenting voices, and independent journalists. The government used recently passed legislation, like the 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law, to imprison dissidents for their critical online speech, including in relation to the election; such laws have led users to increasingly self-censor and to opt for anonymity when politically expressing themselves online. Social media accounts belonging to independent outlets continued to fall victim to hacking, and reports released during the coverage period provided further evidence of a state-run online influence campaign spanning multiple platforms.
The election of Daniel 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.
- While a de facto duopoly in the provision of fixed-line and mobile service remains, reporting from the coverage period showed that close associates of President Ortega, and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, hold shares in two of the country’s less prominent ISPs, which some believe could allow the Ortega-Murillo family to exert a slight level of market control (see A4).
- Self-censorship increased during the coverage period, exacerbated by the heightened use of recently passed legislation criminalizing online speech and a climate of repression around the 2021 general election. Rather than being completely silenced, however, critical voices continued to engage in political speech by using anonymous and encrypted messaging channels (see B4 and B8).
- Previously documented government influence operations were further confirmed during the coverage period when Meta reported removing a troll farm operated by the government and ruling party that spanned at least six platforms (see B2 and B5).
- The first prison sentences issued under the 2020 Cybercrimes Law were doled out during the coverage period, including several 11- and 12-year sentences for users’ political speech on social media. Several individuals were detained on the eve of the election or charged because of their election-related commentary (see C3).
- Social media accounts belonging to at least four independent online outlets were hacked in January 2022 (see C8).
|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 2022 show that 2.98 million people in the country had internet access, for a penetration rate of 44.2 percent. Mobile phone subscriptions stood at 8.21 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
According to Speedtest Global Index, Nicaragua ranked 98th out of 140 countries surveyed for mobile broadband speeds and 105th out of 182 countries surveyed for fixed-line broadband speeds in March 2022. Nicaragua’s median mobile data download and upload speeds were 27.94 megabits per second (Mbps) and 13.02 Mbps, respectively. Median fixed broadband download and upload speeds stood at 42.17 Mbps and 15.52 Mbps, respectively.4
Frequent power outages, caused by poor infrastructure and natural disasters, also pose a threat to connectivity. A failure in the Central American electrical system in July 2021 caused a total blackout in Nicaragua that lasted five hours,5 for instance, with similar blackouts reported in June,6 August,7 and November of that year.8 In November 2020, Nicaragua was devastated by Hurricane Iota; 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.9
- 1Simon Kemp, “Digital 2022: Nicaragua,” Data Reportal, February 16, 2022, https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2022-nicaragua.
- 2“Feria Expointernet 2017 [Expointernet Holiday 2017],” Estadisticas Sobre el Sector de Internet y Telecomunicaciones en Nicaragua, May 17, 2017, https://canitel.org.ni/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Presentacion-Indicado….
- 3“Conexiones del Servicio de Acceso Internet” [Internet Access Service Connections], Telcor, last updated October 28, 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20180917042736/http://www.telcor.gob.ni/Des…
- 4“Nicaragua's Mobile and Fixed Broadband Internet Speeds,” Speedtest, March 2022, https://www.speedtest.net/global-index/nicaragua#mobile
- 5“Economic cost of Central America power outage seen at $18 mln,” Reuters, July 8, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/economic-cost-central-america-po…
- 6“Fallo provoca un apagón total en Nicaragua y parcial en Centroamérica [Failure causes a total blackout in Nicaragua and a partial blackout in Central America],” Swiss Info, June 9, 2021, https://www.swissinfo.ch/spa/nicaragua-apag%C3%B3n_fallo-provoca-un-apa…
- 7“Al menos 44 municipios de Nicaragua sufren apagones de hasta siete horas [At least 44 municipalities suffer "blackouts" of up to seven hours],”. El Confidencial, August 27, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/nacion/al-menos-44-municipios-sufren-ap…
- 8“Un fallo en la red eléctrica causa un apagón en Nicaragua [A failure in the electrical network causes a blackout in Nicaragua],” El Periódico de la Energía, November 27, 2021, https://elperiodicodelaenergia.com/un-fallo-en-la-red-electrica-causa-u…
- 9“Sin energía ni internet, huracán lota deja a miles incomunicados en Nicaragua [Without power or internet, hurricane lota leaves thousands incommunicado in Nicaragua],” Nicaragua Investigates, November 17, 2020, https://nicaraguainvestiga.com/nacion/40711-huracan-iota-energia-intene….
|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 compared to the minimum wage, and there are large geographical disparities.
As of January 2022, Nicaragua’s minimum wage ranged from 4,724 córdobas ($132) to 10,572 córdobas ($296) a month, depending on the sector.1 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.2
Internet service in Nicaragua, while still financially inaccessible for many, became more affordable during the coverage period. The average monthly cost of fixed-line broadband service fell from among the highest in the region to among the lowest. Analysis from Cable.co.uk found that monthly fixed-line broadband service in the country cost an average of $36.99 in 2022, constituting between 13 and 28 percent of the average monthly salary of someone making minimum wage.3 The least expensive mobile data plans in Central America can also be found in Nicaragua, where 1 gigabyte (GB) of data costs $0.70 on average.4
The cost of devices is also high. According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a basic smartphone cost nearly 34 percent of the average Nicaraguan monthly income in 2020.5
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.6 Women in rural areas are even less connected, as women in general face a disparity in access to technologies such as mobile phones.7
Little information is available about Indigenous peoples’ internet access, though civil society organizations have created some initiatives to connect traditionally Indigenous communities.8
In 2015, the Ortega regime promoted a project aimed at establishing Wi-Fi access points in municipal parks throughout the country.9 The project was proposed by the National Electricity Transmission Company (Enatrel) and managed by each municipality.10
In November 2021, the government reported that 93 of the country’s 153 municipalities had broadband coverage, in part due to efforts launched under the Broadband Program—a plan to expand broadband coverage nationwide—first presented by the government in 2016.11
- 1“Esto es lo que debés saber sobre el salario mínimo 2022 [This is what you should know about the 2022 minimum wage],” Dele Peso a sus Pesos, February 3, 2022, https://www.delepesoasuspesos.com/economia/16475-salario-minimo-2022-ni…
- 2“Gobierno finalmente revela estadísticas de desempleo en Nicaragua [Government finally reveals unemployment statistics in Nicaragua],” Nicaragua Investigates, January 22, 2021, https://nicaraguainvestiga.com/economia/44295-encuesta-inide-2020-aumen….
- 3“Broadband: Worldwide Price Comparison,” Cable, Accessed May 2022, https://www.cable.co.uk/broadband/pricing/worldwide-comparison/.
- 4“Mobile: Worldwide Price Comparison,” Cable, Accessed October 2022, https https://www.cable.co.uk/mobiles/worldwide-data-pricing/.
- 5Alliance for Affordable Internet, “From luxury to lifeline: Reducing the cost of mobile devices to reach universal internet access,” Web Foundation, August 6, 2020, https://a4ai.org/report/from-luxury-to-lifeline-reducing-the-cost-of-mo…
- 6Sandra Ziegler et al., “Conectividad rural en América Latina y el Caribe: un puente al desarrollo sostenible en tiempos de pandemia [Rural connectivity in Latin America and the Caribbean: a bridge to sustainable development in times of pandemic],” Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura, 2020, https://repositorio.iica.int/handle/11324/12896.
- 7Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, “Digital gender inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean,” 2020, https://repositorio.iica.int/handle/11324/12489.
- 8Télécoms Sans Frontières, “Bridging the digital divide in Nicaragua’s remote regions,” January 1, 2015, https://www.tsfi.org/en/our-missions/bridging-the-digital-divide/bridgi…;
- 9Nicolas Larocca, “Nicaragua: el Gobierno ofrece wifi gratis en 90 lugares en diferentes municipios del país [Nicaragua: the Government offers free Wi-Fi in 90 places in different municipalities of the country],” Tele Semana, 2016, https://www.telesemana.com/blog/2016/09/05/nicaragua-el-gobierno-ofrece….
- 10Nicolas Larocca, “Nicaragua: el Gobierno ofrece wifi gratis en 90 lugares en diferentes municipios del país [Nicaragua: the Government offers free Wi-Fi in 90 places in different municipalities of the country],” Tele Semana, 2016, https://www.telesemana.com/blog/2016/09/05/nicaragua-el-gobierno-ofrece…; “Facultad Regional Multidisciplinaria, FAREM-Estelí [Regional Multidisciplinary Faculty, FAREM-Estelí],” Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, 2017, https://repositorio.unan.edu.ni/9478/1/18652.pdf.
- 11Enatrel, “Plan De Buen Gobierno 2016 [Good Governance Plan 2016],” 2016, https://www.enatrel.gob.ni/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/PLAN-DE-BUEN-GOBI…; “Hacía la transformación digital en Centroamérica, casos de éxito en Nicaragua [Towards the digital transformation of Central America, success stories in Nicaragua],” El 19 Digital, November 19, 2021, https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:122992-hacia-la-transf…
|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
- 1Access Now, “Targeted, Cut Off and Left in the Dark,” 2019, https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2020/02/KeepItOn-2019-repo….
- 2Access Now, “The state of internet shutdowns around the world: The 2018 #keepiton report,” July 2019, https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2019/07/KeepItOn-2018-Repo….
- 3“Ellas bloquean wifi en los parques de nicaragua [They block WiFi in the parks of Nicaragua,” El Urbano, April 24, 2018, https://elurbano.news/hemeroteca/bloquean-wifi-en-los-parques-de-nicara…;"Gobierno de Nicaragua mantiene bloqueo de Internet en parques públicos,” La Prensa, May 6, 2018, https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2018/05/06/nacionales/2414494-gobierno-mant….
- 4“Ciberdelitos Actos Especials [Special Act Cybercrimes],” Legislacion Asemblea, October 27, 2020, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/($All)/803E7C7FBCF44D77…; “Organizaciones sociales advierten sobre iniciativa de ciberdelito en Nicaragua: incita a la censura y criminaliza el uso de tecnologías [Social organizations warn about cybercrime initiative in Nicaragua: incites censorship and criminalizes the use of technologies],” Observacom, October 6, 2020, https://www.observacom.org/organizaciones-sociales-advierten-sobre-inic…; Silvia Sánchez, “Nicaragua y sus Reglamentos sobre Delincuencia Cibernética [Nicaragua and its cybercrime regulations],” Ipandetec, February 10, 2021, https://www.ipandetec.org/2021/02/10/ciberdelito-nicaragua/.
- 5“Ortega’s ‘Gag Law’ Takes Effect in Nicaragua,” Confidencial, January 1, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/ortegas-gag-law-takes-effect-in….
- 6“Nicaragua,” Submarine Cable Map, Accessed July 2021, https://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/country/nicaragua.
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||3.003 6.006|
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 in light of the de facto duopoly in the provision of fixed and mobile broadband service.
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
Recent reports indicate that the Ortega-Murillo family has close ties to a number of shareholders in Nicaragua’s telecommunications sector. A report published by El Confidencial in February 2022 found that shareholders in companies that partially comprise two ISPs—CooTel and Yota—have links to the presidential family. For example, Ortega-linked lawyer José María Enríquez Moncada holds 30 percent of shares in Inversiones Nicaragüenses de Telecomunicaciones, S. A., which operates the CooTel ISP alongside Chinese company Xinwei Telecom. Though some have expressed concern that this would allow the family to exert control over the market, their potential impact is limited by the relatively small market share held by the companies involved.5
- 1Cristina Morales, “Quién defiende tus datos? [Who defends your data],” Ipandetec, 2020, https://www.ipandetec.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/QDTD-nicaragua-202….
- 2“Socios,” Canitel, accessed February 27, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20210227063014/https://canitel.org.ni/socio…
- 3“Nicaragua: Telecoms Mobile and Broadband – Statistics and Analyses,” BuddeComm, April 2021, https://www.budde.com.au/Research/Nicaragua-Telecoms-Mobile-and-Broadba….
- 4Claudio Ansorena, “Competencia y regulación en las telecomunicaciones: el caso de Nicaragua [Competition and regulation in telecommunications: the case of Nicaragua],” Unidad de Comercio International e Industria, July 2008, https://www.cepal.org/sites/default/files/publication/files/4880/S08004…; “Ley General de Telecomunicaciones y Servicioes Postales [General Law of Telecommunications and Postal Services],” National Assembly of the Republic of Nicaragua, December 2019, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/9e314815a08d4a620625726….
- 5Octavio Enríquez, “La red de negocios privados de la familia Ortega Murillo: 22 empresas a costa del Estado [The private business network of the Ortega Murillo family: 22 companies at the expense of the State],” El Confidencial. February 20, 2022, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/politica/la-red-de-negocios-privados-de…
|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 (see B5). 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
- 1“Ley General de Telecomunicaciones y Servicios Postales [General Law of Telecommunications and Postal Services],” Medios Latinos, Access July 2021, https://www.kas.de/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=68987a16-8661-7663-….
- 2“Ley Organica del Instituto Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones y Correos (Telcor) [Organic Law of the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Postal Services (Telcor)],” Telcor Ente Regulador, Accessed July 2021, https://www.palermo.edu/cele/pdf/Regulaciones/NicaraguaLeyrganicaTelcor….
- 3Leonor Zuniga, “Mapping Digital Media: Nicaragua,” Open Society Foundations, March 2014, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/publications/mapping-digital-med….
- 4Telcor, accessed July 2021, https://www.telcor.gob.ni/DocAdmin.asp?Accion=ResultadoConsultaRango
- 5Diego Silva, “Desde ahora el régimen de Daniel Ortega controlará las interconexiones y acceso, las instalaciones, operaciones de redes y aspectos jurídicos de las empresas de telecomunicaciones,” Despach 505, May 19, 2020, https://www.despacho505.com/regimen-amplia-control-sobre-operadores-de-….
|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
- 1“Ortega’s ‘Gag Law’ Takes Effect in Nicaragua,” Confidencial, January 1, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/ortegas-gag-law-takes-effect-in….
|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
As part of the government’s broader online influence operation, state employees were found to have engaged in the coordinated mass reporting of content posted on Facebook by government critics in 2018 and 2019 in an apparent effort to get it removed (see B5). Meta found these efforts, which targeted media outlets, activists, and everyday users, to be largely unsuccessful.4
Police have also reportedly coerced government critics into deleting videos or photos that depict antigovernment protests from their devices.5
- 1Rodrigo Rodríguez, “La denuncia por copyright como método de censura en línea en Nicaragua [Copyright complaint as a method of online censorship in Nicaragua],” Access Now, December 2, 2020, https://www.accessnow.org/la-denuncia-por-copyright-como-metodo-de-cens….
- 2Alejandro Menjivar, “Warning: repressive regimes are using DMCA takedown demands to censor activists,” Access Now, October 22, 2020, https://www.accessnow.org/dmca-takedown-demands-censor-activists/.
- 3Dánae Vílchez, “YouTube censors independent Nicaraguan news outlets after copyright complaints from Ortega-owned media,” Committee to Protect Journalists, May 6, 2020, https://cpj.org/2020/05/youtube-censor-nicaragua-outlets-100-noticias-c….
- 4“October 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report,” Meta, October 2021 (updated November 5, 2021), https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/October-2021-CIB-Report…
- 5“Critics Under Attack,” Human Rights Watch, June 2021, https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/06/22/critics-under-attack/harassment-a….
|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 (see B2).3 Journalists and activists have reported frustrations with social media companies providing vague justifications for removing their content and delays in recovering their accounts.4
- 1“Joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council, on the Universal Periodic Review 33rd Session for Nicaragua,” October 2018, https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2018/10/UPR-Nicaragua-digi….
- 2“Ortega’s ‘Gag Law’ Takes Effect in Nicaragua,” Confidencial, January 1, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/ortegas-gag-law-takes-effect-in….
- 3Dánae Vílchez, “YouTube censors independent Nicaraguan news outlets after copyright complaints from Ortega-owned media,” Committee to Protect Journalists, May 6, 2020, https://cpj.org/2020/05/youtube-censor-nicaragua-outlets-100-noticias-c….
- 4Interviews with two journalists, one satirist, and one social media user known for their criticism of the state, conducted in June 2022.
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||1.001 4.004|
Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 due to an increase in self-censorship sparked by the heightened use of legislation criminalizing online speech and a climate of repression around the 2021 general election.
Since early 2021, journalists, commentators, and ordinary users have experienced a climate of growing self-censorship that has continued to intensify amid heightening state repression of critical voices.1
Journalists and ordinary users frequently engaged in self-censorship before the most recent government efforts to silence critics.2 The practice became even more common during the coverage period, however, as fears of reprisals for online speech under recently passed laws, including the 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law, were realized (see C2 and C3). The November 2021 electoral period, characterized by a harsh clampdown on opposition figures, dissenting voices, and independent journalists, further dissuaded some Nicaraguans from speaking out (see C3).3
Despite the repressive atmosphere, many journalists and everyday users have continued to express political speech online using anonymous and encrypted platforms rather than censoring themselves completely (see B8 and C4). Journalists for independent media outlets, for instance, have largely stopped using bylines.4 Social media users have implemented similar practices to safeguard against repression. Many Twitter users created anonymous accounts to continue speaking out, for instance, while Facebook and Instagram users narrowed their audiences, sharing political content exclusively with those on “close friends” lists.5
High levels of state surveillance have also contributed to self-censorship,6 as has extralegal pressure by forces aligned with the regime (see C5 and C7).
- 1Mildred Largaespada. “El año #YaNoMás en que enfrentamos la censura (y resistimos la autocensura) en las redes sociales [The #YaNoMás year in which we faced censorship (and resisted self-censorship) on social media], El Confidencial. December 26, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/politica/el-ano-yanomas-en-que-enfrenta…; “In light of serious allegations regarding the closure of civic spaces in Nicaragua, UN and IACHR Special Rapporteurs urge authorities to comply with their international obligations to respect and guarantee fundamental freedoms,” Organization of American States, September 28, 2022, https://www.oas.org/en/iachr/expression/showarticle.asp?lID=1&artID=1257
- 2“Entra vigor ley que ejercerá vigilancia en redes sociales en Nicaragua [Law that will exercise surveillance in social networks enters into force in Nicaragua],” Forbes Centroamérica, December 30, 2020, https://forbescentroamerica.com/2020/12/30/entra-vigor-ley-que-ejercera…; Human Rights Watch, “Nicaragua Events of 2020,” Accessed July 2021, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/nicaragua; “Parlamento de Nicaragua ratifica polémica ley de cadena perpetua [Nicaraguan Parliament ratifies controversial life imprisonment law],” Deutche Welle, January 19, 2021, https://www.dw.com/es/parlamento-de-nicaragua-ratifica-pol%C3%A9mica-le…; Ley de Reforma al Artículo 37 de la Constitución Política de la República de Nicaragua, National Assembly of Nicaragua, January 18, 2021, https://perma.cc/6LHM-ZZ4F
- 3Mildred Largaespada. “El año #YaNoMás en que enfrentamos la censura (y resistimos la autocensura) en las redes sociales [The #YaNoMás year in which we faced censorship (and resisted self-censorship) on social media], El Confidencial. December 26, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/politica/el-ano-yanomas-en-que-enfrenta…; Civic Media Observatory, “Undertones: Nicaragua's “sham” elections have cold shower effect on media,” Global Voices, November 24, 2021, https://globalvoices.org/2021/11/24/undertones-nicaraguas-sham-election…
- 4Divergentes, “Anonymous sources: Repression installs unprecedented self-censorship in Nicaragua,” LatAm Journalism Review, September 10, 2021, https://latamjournalismreview.org/news/anonymous-sources-repression-ins…
- 5Mildred Largaespada. “El año #YaNoMás en que enfrentamos la censura (y resistimos la autocensura) en las redes sociales [The #YaNoMás year in which we faced censorship (and resisted self-censorship) on social media], El Confidencial. December 26, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/politica/el-ano-yanomas-en-que-enfrenta…;
- 6“Two Years into Nicaragua’s Human Rights Crisis, the IACHR Stresses its Permanent Commitment to Victims and Confirms the Consolidation of a Fifth Phase of Repression, Organization of American States,” Organization of American States, April 18, 2020, http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2020/080.asp.
|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
This multiplatform influence operation was confirmed and further exposed during the coverage period. In October 2021, Meta reported removing “one of the most cross-government troll operations [they had] disrupted to date”: a network of over 1,400 assets (362 Instagram accounts, 896 Facebook accounts, 132 Facebook pages, and 24 Facebook groups) operated by the government and the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). These findings corroborated prior reporting, indicating that the network had used fake accounts to post and amplify progovernment, pro-FSLN, and anti-opposition content from 2018 onward.4
Starting in late 2019, the network increasingly achieved this by creating and amplifying a large number of media brands with wide-reaching presence across social media platforms, websites, and blogs. The broader influence operation spanned at least six platforms, including Twitter, Telegram, YouTube, and TikTok. Meta alleged that the use of the brands, which sometimes claimed to be independent or local community members and even impersonated political opposition groups, was an attempt to create the appearance of vibrant public debate while flooding the online landscape with pro-state content.
According to analysis by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR Lab) published in November 2021, accounts linked to the influence operation on Facebook, Telegram, and Twitter primarily promoted content in support of Ortega and his 2021 reelection campaign, especially in the weeks and months leading up to the vote. As of the publication of the DFR Lab investigation, participating accounts remained operational on Telegram and TikTok, while the other platforms had removed many participating accounts.5
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).6
- 1Drazen Jorgic and Ismael López, “Cómo Ortega levantó un imperio mediático que enriquece a su familia y afianza su poder en Nicaragua [How Ortega built a media empire that enriches his family and strengthens his power in Nicaragua],” Reuters, December 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/politica-nicaragua-ortega-idESKBN2831EF.
- 2“‘Trolls’ de Rosario Murillo operan en Correos de Nicaragua [Rosario Murillo's ‘Trolls’ operate in the Nicaraguan Post Office],” 100% Noticias, April 1, 2021, https://100noticias.com.ni/nacionales/106265-rosario-murillo-trolls-red…; “Así operan ‘las turbas virtuales’ del régimen que «provocan zozobra» desde instituciones públicas,” Divergentes, June 11, 2021, https://www.divergentes.com/asi-operan-las-turbas-virtuales-del-regimen….
- 3Caroline Houck and Carl David Goette-Luciak, “Nicaragua’s Online Civil War,” Overture Global, accessed August 2021, https://www.overtureglobal.io/story/nicaraguas-online-civil-war.
- 4“October 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report,” Meta, October 2021 (updated November 5, 2021), https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/October-2021-CIB-Report…
- 5Esteban Ponce de León and Daniel Suárez Pérez, “Multi-platform troll farm linked to Nicaraguan government,” DFRLab, November 5, 2021, https://medium.com/dfrlab/multi-platform-troll-farm-linked-to-nicaragua…
- 6Moises Urbina and Vladimir Vásquez, “The challenge of using WhatsApp, a platform not designed for media outlets,” Confidencial, January 29, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/the-challenge-of-using-whatsapp….
|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; at least 24 outlets were reportedly established between April 2018 and May 2020.1 However, such enterprises and individual bloggers face significant financial hurdles. Since the state does not allocate funds to critical outlets, their financing is unreliable.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. In March 2022, investigative journalism outlet Public File (Expediente Público) reported that media linked to the Ortega family received around half of state advertising funds between 2018 and 2021.3
The government has launched several court cases or tax investigations against media executives in recent years, seizing newsrooms and venues where media offices are located (see C3). Those affected include traditional outlets with a large online presence.4
Regime-instigated censorship on YouTube can affect the monetization capacity of independent media outlets that rely on the platform, ultimately silencing their reporting.5
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 inform the government in advance of the origins of any funds they will receive and how said funds will be used;6 as a result, “foreign agents” are prohibited from receiving anonymous donations. The government will have the authority to evaluate and determine whether the information is suitable. If an entity does not comply or register as a foreign agent within a set period of time after receiving notification from the relevant authority, the law authorizes the government to restrict its activities connected to the funding in question, impose fines, and cancel its legal status.
- 1Literal, “El boom de los medios digitales en la Nicaragua post abril 2018 [The boom of digital media in Nicaragua post April 2018], May 18, 2020, https://literalni.com/noticias/228-el-boom-de-los-medios-digitales-en-l….
- 2Houston Castillo Vado and Donaldo Hernández, “Medios digitales en Nicaragua surgen en medio de presión de Ortega a medios tradicionales [Digital media in Nicaragua emerge amid pressure from Ortega to traditional media],” Voice of America, September 20, 2020, https://www.vozdeamerica.com/centroamerica/medios-digitales-nicaragua-a….
- 3“La verdad del régimen: zanahoraria a propagandistas y palo a independientes [The truth of the regime: carrots to propagandists and stick to independents], Expediente Público, March 23, 2022, https://www.expedientepublico.org/la-verdad-del-regimen-zanahoria-a-pro…
- 4Houston Castillo Vado, “Asset Freeze Threatens to Silence Independent Nicaraguan Broadcaster,” Voice of America, September 18, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/asset-freeze-threatens-silence-in…; Drazen Jorgic and Ismael López, “Cómo Ortega levantó un imperio mediático que enriquece a su familia y afianza su poder en Nicaragua [How Ortega built a media empire that enriches his family and strengthens his power in Nicaragua],” Reuters, December 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/politica-nicaragua-ortega-idESKBN2831EF.
- 5Moisés Urbina & Vladimir Vásquez, “From television to YouTube: Nicaraguan media against Ortega’s censorship,” Confidencial, January 28, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/from-television-to-youtube-nica….
- 6“Law Regulating Foreigg Agents,” Legislacion Asamblea, October 15, 2020, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/9e314815a08d4a620625726….
|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.
Between 2018 and September 2020, at least 28 new online outlets or digital portals were established.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 Nicaragua’s last newspaper with a print edition, La Prensa, suspended its printed version in August 2021, continuing operations exclusively online (see C3).3
There is a lack of online content dedicated to gender-based issues and representing women more broadly; as of May 2022, online outlet La Lupa appeared to be the only one providing a gendered perspective.4 Civil society has undertaken initiatives to cultivate a digital environment that is more inclusive and representative of Indigenous voices, including through the creation of online content in Miskito and Mayangna Indigenous languages.5
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.6 The independent initiative Citizen Observatory (Observatorio Ciudadano) was created in response,7 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-19.8 However, in June 2021, members of the organization stated that their monitoring capacity had declined due to the repressive political environment, with fear and self-censorship effectively limiting the information they are able to collect.9
- 1Houston Castle Ford and Donaldo Hernandez, “Medios digitales en Nicaragua surgen en medio de presión de Ortega a medios tradicionales [Digital media in Nicaragua emerge amid pressure from Ortega on traditional media],” Voice of America, September 20, 2022, https://www.vozdeamerica.com/a/centroamerica_medios-digitales-nicaragua…
- 2“Nicaragua’s press freedom crisis deepens,” International Press Institute, April 12, 2021, https://ipi.media/nicaraguas-press-freedom-crisis-deepens/.
- 3“Nicaragua: prominent anti-Ortega newspaper raided by police,” Deutsche Welle. August 14, 2021, https://www.dw.com/en/nicaragua-prominent-anti-ortega-newspaper-raided-…
- 4Houston Castillo Vado, “Mujeres periodistas emprenden en medios digitales para seguir informando sobre Nicaragua [Women journalists undertake in digital media to continue reporting on Nicaragua],” Voice of America, May 26, 2022, https://www.vozdeamerica.com/a/mujeres-periodistas-emprenden-en-medios-…
- 5“Miskitus y Mayangnas en El Internet [Miskitus and Mayangnas on the Internet], Activismo Lenguas, March 30, 2020, https://rising.globalvoices.org/lenguas/proyectos-beneficiarios/miskitu…; “Multimedia Miskitu,” accessed October 6, 2022, https://llynnh.wixsite.com/multimedia-miskitu; “Miskitus y Mayangnas En El Internet [Miskitus and Mayangnas on the Internet], Facebook, accessed October 6, 2022, https://www.facebook.com/Miskitus-y-Mayangnas-En-El-Internet-2021031035…
- 6Julieta Pelcastre, “Desinformación e ignorancia, estrategias de Cuba, Nicaragua y Venezuela [Disinformation and ignorance, strategies of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela],” Diálogo, March 4, 2020, https://dialogo-americas.com/es/articles/desinformacion-e-ignorancia-es….
- 7“Nota de Prensa No 69,” Observatoria Ciudadano COVID-19 Nicaragua, July 21, 2021, https://observatorioni.org/.
- 8Jorge Hurtado, “Nicaragua y el Covid-19: entre la falta de información y un Gobierno que anima a aglomerarse [Nicaragua and the Covid-19: between the lack of information and a government that encourages agglomeration],” France 24, September 14, 2020, https://www.france24.com/es/20200914-nicaragua-seis-meses-pandemia-covi….
- 9“Observatorio confirma que pierde su capacidad de monitorear covid-19 debido a la repression [Observatory confirms that it loses its ability to monitor covid-19 due to the repression], Confidencial, June 28, 2021, ”https://www.confidencial.com.ni/nacion/observatorio-confirma-que-pierde….
|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. Such activism is increasingly being done through anonymous accounts and on encrypted platforms, like WhatsApp, as users and journalists try to avoid retaliation from the state (see B4 and C4).3 Some movements on social media focus on environmentalism,4 while others have documented human rights violations perpetrated by those close to the regime.5 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.6
- 1Rodrigo Rodríguez, Juliana Castro, and Llama Digital, “Gobierno de Nicaragua busca criminalizar la protesta en línea [Nicaraguan government seeks to criminalize online protest],” Access Now, November 25, 2020, https://www.accessnow.org/nicaragua-tiktok-seguridad-consejos-la-protes….
- 2Access Now, “New wave of online attacks in Nicaragua puts opposition voices at risk of physical violence,” September 13, 2018, https://www.accessnow.org/new-wave-of-online-attacks-in-nicaragua-puts-….
- 3Mildred Largaespada, “El año #YaNoMás en que enfrentamos la censura (y resistimos la autocensura) en las redes sociales [The #YaNoMás year in which we faced censorship (and resisted self-censorship) on social media],” El Confidencial. December 26, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/politica/el-ano-yanomas-en-que-enfrenta…;
- 4Carlos Salinas Maldonado, “El movimiento juvenil que le planta cara a Daniel Ortega [The youth movement that stands up to Daniel Ortega],” El País, April 14, 2018, https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/04/13/actualidad/1523651830_24920….
- 5Julio López, “#SOSNicaragua,” Nueva Sociedad, September 2018, https://nuso.org/articulo/sosnicaragua-revolucion-civica-en-las-calles-….
- 6“La oposición recuerda el segundo aniversario de la rebelión contra Ortega en Nicaragua [The opposition remembers the second anniversary of the rebellion against Ortega in Nicaragua],” Agencia EFE, April 18, 2020, https://www.efe.com/efe/america/politica/la-oposicion-recuerda-el-segun…; Lina Aristizábal, “Por el Covid-19, Nicaragua conmemorará las protestas contra Daniel Ortega de forma virtual [Due to Covid-19, Nicaragua will commemorate the protests against Daniel Ortega virtually],” France 24, April 15, 2020, https://www.france24.com/es/20200415-covid19-nicaragua-protestas-daniel…..
|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 120 journalists fled the country between April 2018 and April 2022, with 54 fleeing between June and December 2021.4
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 2022, however, the ACJD stated that the government had not met its obligations and demanded that it comply with the agreement.6
- 1“Nicaragua’s Judiciary: Subordinate to the Ortega-Murillo Regime,” Expediente Público, January 8, 2021, https://expedientepublico.org/nicaraguas-judiciary-subordinate-to-the-o….
- 2“Law on Access to Public Information,” Legislacion Asemblea, May 16, 2007, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/Normaweb.nsf/($All)/675A94FF2EBFEE91….
- 3Julio López, “Proponen protocolo sobre libertad de expresión [Protocol on freedom of expression proposed],” Onda Local, July 23, 2019, https://ondalocal.com.ni/noticias/735-protocolo-libertad-expresion-info…; Amnesty International, “Nicaragua: Gobierno de Ortega sigue violando el derecho a la libertad de prensa [Nicaragua: Ortega's government continues to violate the right to freedom of the press],” May 2, 2019, ”https://www.amnesty.org/es/latest/news/2019/05/nicaragua-ortega-governm….
- 4“Al menos 120 periodistas de Nicaragua en el exilio [At least 120 Nicaraguan journalists in exile],” Deutsche Welle, April 5, 2022, https://www.dw.com/es/al-menos-120-periodistas-de-nicaragua-en-el-exili….
- 5Julio López, “Proponen protocolo sobre libertad de expresión [Protocol on freedom of expression proposed],” Onda Local, July 23, 2019, https://ondalocal.com.ni/noticias/735-protocolo-libertad-expresion-info….
- 6“Alianza Cívica demanda al gobierno que cumpla los acuerdos de 2019 [Civic Alliance Sues the Government To Comply With The 2019 Agreements],” Civic Alliance, March 27, 2022, https://www.alianzacivicanicaragua.com/alianza-civica-demanda-al-gobier…
|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
- 1Ismael Lopez, “Nicaragua passes bill criminalizing what government considers fake news,” Reuters, October 27, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/nicaragua-politics/nicaragua-passes-bil…; “Nicaragua approves ‘cybercrimes’ law, alarming rights groups,” AP, October 27, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/legislature-legislation-crime-daniel-ortega-….
- 2Gaspar Pisanu and Rodrigo Rodríguez, “Ley Especial de Ciberdelitos en Nicaragua: la opresión se traslada al mundo en línea [Special Cybercrime Law in Nicaragua: oppression moves to the online world],” Access Now, September 30, 2020, https://www.accessnow.org/ley-especial-de-ciberdelitos-en-nicaragua-opr….
- 3“Criminal Defamation Laws in Central America,” CPJ, March 2016, https://cpj.org/reports/2016/03/central-america/.
- 4“Ley de Seguridad Soberana de La República de Nicaragua,” Legislacion Asemblea, December 18, 2015, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/SILEG/Gacetas.nsf/5eea6480fc3d3d9006….
- 5“Soverign Security Law of the Republic of Nicaragua,” Legislacion Asemblea, December 2, 2015, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/9e314815a08d4a620625726….
- 6Cenidh, “CENIDH presenta recurso por inconstitucionalidad contra la Ley de Seguridad Soberana [CENIDH files an appeal for unconstitutionality against the Sovereign Security Law],” February 12, 2016, https://www.cenidh.org/noticias/871/.
|Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||2.002 6.006|
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because numerous multiyear prison sentences were handed out for people’s online activities, including in the first convictions under 2020 Cybercrime law.
Criminal charges for individuals’ online activities increased during the coverage period, with many users arrested and sentenced under recently passed legislation. In the six months leading up to the November 2021 general elections, the government imprisoned dozens of political prisoners, frequently using their past social media activity as evidence.1
The 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law was used to charge dissenting voices for their critical online speech for the first times during the coverage period. As of January 2022, at least 10 people had been charged under the Special Cybercrimes Law, including for posting critical content on social media.2 The first conviction under the law was carried out that month, when Donald Margarito Alvarenga Mendoza was sentenced to 12 years in prison for allegedly inciting "hate and violence," undermining national integrity, and spreading false news through Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages. Reporting found that the only political posts on Mendoza’s Facebook page were those demanding freedom for political prisoners and a call not to vote in the 2021 general election. Police confiscated Mendoza’s phone when he was detained on the eve of the election, allowing authorities to discover the WhatsApp messages used, in part, to charge him, which had been sent by other people in a group he belonged to.3
Later that month, internet user Douglas Alfredo Cerros Lanzas was found guilty of violating the Special Cybercrimes Law and was sentenced to 12 years in prison shortly thereafter.4 He had also been detained on the eve of the election, accused of undermining national integrity through Facebook and WhatsApp.5 His posts had included questions around the integrity of the election. The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) acquitted Lanzas in August 2022, after the coverage period, citing irregularities in the trial.6
In March 2022, digital activist Yoel Ibzan Sandino Ibarra was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months in prison on charges of violating the Cybercrimes Law and conspiring to undermine national integrity. Ibarra had created the Free Minds (Mentes Libres) Facebook page in 2018 at the onset of the protests to share information about the country’s sociopolitical crisis. In November 2021, two days before the general election, Ibarra had posted on the page about the imprisonment of seven opposition presidential candidates. Ibarra was arrested later that afternoon and interrogated about the page’s financing; he was reportedly beaten during the interrogation. Prosecutors in the case used four posts from Mentes Libres as evidence against Ibarra, including the post he made denouncing the imprisonment of the opposition candidates and one supporting candidate Cristiana Chamorro.7
The 2020 Special Cybercrimes Law was also reportedly used to sentence individuals—including known opponents of the Ortega regime—to several years’ imprisonment based on spurious claims by the state about their social media activity. The individuals involved claim that the charges brought against them were false.8
In February 2022, Journalist Miguel Mendoza Urbina was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and disseminating false news.9 Multiple Facebook posts and at least 30 tweets were presented by authorities as evidence in the case.10 Mendoza, a long-time sports journalist who had gained popularity posting social and political commentary on social media in recent years, was detained in June 2021 following a police raid on his home.11
Prosecutors’ offices mounted several investigations against journalists and political activists ahead of the November 2021 general elections.12 Prominent critical news outlet La Prensa was raided by police forces in August 2021 based on allegations that the outlet had engaged in money laundering; the raid came one day after the outlet announced that it had suspended its print operations due to authorities withholding printing supplies. During the raid, the newspaper's employees were not allowed to leave the premises or contact anyone outside, and internet service in the building was cut off.13 An earlier raid was carried out in May 2021, at the office of the news site Confidencial, which has been critical of the Ortega regime, and at the home of its director, Carlos Fernando Chamorro. Several of the site’s journalists were detained.14 Other journalists have been threatened with charges under the Special Cybercrimes Law and summoned by prosecutors as part of a politically charged money laundering case against imprisoned opposition presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro, Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s sister.15
Charges were also leveled against individuals for online content that was not explicitly political or related to the election during the coverage period. In September 2021, the Public Ministry announced criminal charges against environmental and Indigenous activist Amaru Ruiz Alemán. Alemán, who has been in exile since 2018, faces charges of spreading false information under the Cybercrimes Law for his for his social media activism in 2020 and 2021, which focused on human rights violations against Indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in Nicaragua. 16
Users have been arrested and detained for online commentary in the past, though to a much lesser degree. 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.17 Both were released from detention through an amnesty law in June 2019, though they were never tried or convicted.18
- 2Houston Castillo Vado, “Nicaragua castiga con cárcel por criticar al gobierno de Ortega en las redes sociales [Nicaragua punishes with jail for criticizing the Ortega government on social media],” Voice of America, January 18, 2022, https://www.vozdeamerica.com/a/nicaragua-carcel-por-criticar-gobierno-r…
- 3Juan Carlos Bow, “Doce años de cárcel por opinar en Facebook y mensajes de WhatsApp [Twelve years in prison for commenting on Facebook and WhatsApp messages],” El Confidencial, January 30, 2022, https://www.confidencial.digital/nacion/doce-anos-de-carcel-por-opinar-…
- 4Noel Perez Miranda, “Dictadura manda a arresto domiciliario al preso politico Douglas Cerros [Dictatorship sends political prisoner Douglas Cerros to house arrest],” Articulo 66, July 4, 2022, https://www.articulo66.com/2022/07/03/dictadura-arresto-domiciliario-pr…
- 5“Declaran culpable a otro opositor bajo las leyes de “ciberdelitos” y “soberanía” [“They declare another opponent guilty under the laws of “cybercrimes” and “sovereignty”],” Confidencial, January 30, 2022, https://www.confidencial.digital/nacion/declaran-culpable-a-otro-oposit…
- 6“Absuelven a preso político Douglas Cerros Lanzas acusado por noticias falsas [Political prisoner Douglas Cerros Lanzas acquitted accused of false news],” 100% Noticias, August 12, 2022, https://100noticias.com.ni/politica/117428-csj-absuelve-preso-politico-…
- 7“Yoel Sandino Ibarra, political prisoner for creating a Facebook page,” The LA News, March 5, 2022, https://latin-american.news/yoel-sandino-ibarra-political-prisoner-for-…; “Condenan a 11 años y medio de cárcel al activista Yoel Sandino, creador de Mentes Libres [Activist Yoel Sandino, creator of Free Minds, sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison],” Nicaragua Investiga, March 24, 2022, https://nicaraguainvestiga.com/politica/79213-yoel-sandino-condenado/
- 8Fabián Medina Sánchez, “Insólito: condenaron por ciberdelitos a 11 años de cárcel a un campesino de Nicaragua que apenas lee y nunca usó PC ni smartphone [Unusual: a Nicaraguan farmer who barely reads and never used a PC or smartphone was sentenced for cybercrimes to 11 years in prison],” Infobae, February 16, 2022, https://www.infobae.com/america/america-latina/2022/02/16/nicaragua-ins…; “Rumores, únicas pruebas en juicio por ciberdelitos y “conspiración” [Rumors, the only evidence in court for cybercrimes and "conspiracy"],” Confidencial, February 6, 2022, https://www.confidencial.digital/nacion/rumores-unicas-pruebas-en-juici…
- 9“Condenan al periodista nicaraguense Miguel Mendoza por los delitos de difundir noticias falasas y conspirar contra la integridad nacional [Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mendoza is convicted of the crimes of spreading false news and conspiring against national integrity], Committee to Protect Journalists, February 10, 2022, https://cpj.org/es/2022/02/condenan-al-periodista-nicaraguense-miguel-m…
- 10“Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mendoza convicted on conspiracy, false news charges,” CPJ, February 9, 2022, https://cpj.org/2022/02/nicaraguan-journalist-miguel-mendoza-convicted-…
- 11Mildred Largaespada, “Miguel Mendoza’s criticism made the regime uncomfortable. Now he’s in jail,” July 2, 2021, https://www.confidencial.digital/english/miguel-mendozas-criticism-made…
- 12“Crece acoso contra medios y periodistas en Nicaragua a seis meses de los comicios [Harassment against media and journalists grows in Nicaragua six months after the elections],” Agencia EFE, May 26, 2021, https://www.efe.com/efe/america/politica/periodistas-nicaraguenses-comp…
- 13Wilfredo Miranda, “La policia de Ortega allana al principal diario de Nicaragua y le acusa de defraudación aduanera [Ortega's police raid Nicaragua's main newspaper and accuse it of "customs fraud"], El Páis, August 13, 2021, https://elpais.com/internacional/2021-08-13/la-policia-de-ortega-allana…
- 14“El régimen de Ortega desata una cacería de periodistas con el pretexto de perseguir el 'lavado de dinero' [The Ortega regime unleashes a hunt for journalists under the pretext of persecuting 'money laundering']," El Pais, May 25, 2021, https://elpais.com/internacional/2021-05-25/el-regimen-de-ortega-desata…; Wilfredo Miranda and Carlos Salinas Maldonado, “El régimen de Daniel Ortega vuelve a atacar y detener periodistas en Nicaragua,” El País, May 20, 2021, https://elpais.com/internacional/2021-05-20/el-gobierno-de-ortega-vuelv….
- 15“Los periodistas: blanco en tercera fase de detenciones y allanamientos de Ortega en Nicaragua [Journalists: Target in Third Phase of Ortega's Arrests and Raids in Nicaragua],” Voice of America, June 22, 2021, https://www.vozdeamerica.com/libertad-de-prensa/ortega-desata-tercera-f…
- 16“Nicaragua: criminalización de Amaru Ruiz Alemán [Nicaragua: Criminalization of Amaru Ruiz Alemán],” OMCT SOS-Torture Network, September 14, 2021, https://www.omct.org/es/recursos/llamamientos-urgentes/nicaragua-crimin…
- 17Amnesty International, “Nicaragua: Gobierno de Ortega sigue violando el derecho a la libertad de prensa [Nicaragua: Ortega's government continues to violate the right to freedom of the press],” May 2, 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/es/latest/news/2019/05/nicaragua-ortega-governm….
- 18“Locked in ‘small graves’: Nicaraguan journalists Mora and Pineda describe their ordeal,” Committee to Protect Journalists, July 16, 2019, https://cpj.org/2019/07/nicaragua-journalists-miguel-mora-lucia-pineda-….
|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
- 1Will Grant, “Crisis en Nicaragua: los riesgos de protestar contra el gobierno de Daniel Ortega [Crisis in Nicaragua: the risks of protesting against the government of Daniel Ortega],” BBC News, November 1, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-45943994
- 2GSMA, “Access to Mobile Services and Proof of Identity 2020: The Undisputed Linkages,” March 2020, https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Ac….
|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 (NGOs) 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, nearly 30 people, including opposition candidates, had been arrested ahead of the November general elections. Those detained 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
- 1Renata Avila, “Mapping Central American Digital Rights,” Medium, May 17, 2018, https://avilarenata.medium.com/mapa-centroamericano-de-actores-y-temas-…
- 2“RSF and PEN urge Nicaraguan legislators to reject ‘foreign agents’ bill,” Reporters without Borders, September 29, 2020, https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-and-pen-urge-nicaraguan-legislators-reject-….
- 3“Ortega’s ‘Gag Law’ Takes Effect in Nicaragua,” Confidencial, January 1, 2021, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/ortegas-gag-law-takes-effect-in….
- 4U.S. Department of State, “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nicaragua,” March 30, 2021, https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-prac….
- 5Haggar Shezaf and Jonathan Jacobson, “Revealed: Israel’s Cyber-spy Industry Helps World Dictators Hunt Dissidents and Gays,” Haaretz, October 20, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-israel-s-cyber-sp…; Juan Carlos Bow, “Ortega Spies Using Israeli Technology,” Confidencial, October 29, 2018, https://www.confidencial.com.ni/english/ortega-spies-using-israeli-tech….
- 6“‘Trolls’ de Rosario Murillo operan en Correos de Nicaragua [Rosario Murillo's ‘Trolls’ operate in the Nicaraguan Post Office],” 100% Noticias, April 1, 2021, https://100noticias.com.ni/nacionales/106265-rosario-murillo-trolls-red…; “Así operan ‘las turbas virtuales’ del régimen que «provocan zozobra» desde instituciones públicas,”
- 7Leo Schwartz, “Police in Latin America are turning activists’ phones against them,” Rest of World, July 16, 2021, https://restofworld.org/2021/latin-america-phone-security/.
- 8Legal Norms of Nicaragua, “LEY DE SEGURIDAD SOBERANA DE LA REPÚBLICA DE NICARAGUA [SOVEREIGN SECURITY LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF NICARAGUA],” December 18, 2015, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/9e314815a08d4a620625726…
|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 trace a communication; identify the recipient of a communication; identify the time, date, and duration of a communication; identify the type of communication, such as mobile phone, internet, or landline phone; identify the equipment used to conduct a communication; and 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 2021, Facebook received three emergency requests from the Nicaraguan government to disclose information on two accounts; some data was granted in two of the three cases.10
- 1“Law on Access to Public Information,” Legislacion Asemblea, May 16, 2007, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/Normaweb.nsf/($All)/675A94FF2EBFEE91….
- 2Renata Avila, “Mapping Central American Digital Rights,” Medium, May 17, 2018, https://avilarenata.medium.com/mapa-centroamericano-de-actores-y-temas-…
- 3IPANDETEC, “Quién Defiende Tus Datos? [Who Defends Your Data?],” accessed on July 27, 2021, https://www.ipandetec.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/QDTD-nicaragua-202…
- 4Legal Norms of Nicaragua, “LEY DE PROTECCIÓN DE DATOS PERSONALES [LAW ON THE PROTECTION OF PERSONAL DATA],” March 29, 2012, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/9e314815a08d4a620625726…
- 5IPANDETEC, “Quién Defiende Tus Datos? [Who Defends Your Data?],” accessed on July 27, 2021, https://www.ipandetec.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/QDTD-nicaragua-202…
- 6Legal Norms of Nicaragua “NORMATIVA PARA LA PRESERVACIÓN DE DATOS E INFORMACIÓN ACUERDO ADMINISTRATIVO N°. 001-2021 [REGULATIONS FOR THE PRESERVATION OF DATA AND INFORMATION ADMINISTRATIVE AGREEMENT No. 001 2021],” January 29, 2021, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/Normaweb.nsf/($All)/8D9C9ECE6ED36D33…
- 7Legal Norms of Nicaragua, “LEY ESPECIAL DE CIBERDELITOS [SPECIAL ACT cybercrimes],” October 30, 2020, http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/($All)/803E7C7FBCF44D77…
- 8Katitza Rodriguez, “Comparative Analysis of Surveillance Laws and Practices in Latin America,” Necessary&Proportionate, October 2016, https://necessaryandproportionate.org/comparative-analysis-surveillance….
- 9Diego Silva, “Desde ahora el régimen de Daniel Ortega controlará las interconexiones y acceso, las instalaciones, operaciones de redes y aspectos jurídicos de las empresas de telecomunicaciones,” Despach 505, May 19, 2020, https://www.despacho505.com/regimen-amplia-control-sobre-operadores-de-….
- 10Facebook Transparency Report, “Government Requests for User Data: Nicaragua,” June 2022, https://transparency.fb.com/data/government-data-requests/country/NI
|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. Torture in detention is common. According to NGO Never Again Nicaragua (Nicaragua Nunca Más), there were at least 167 political prisoners in detention in December 2021; they had compiled 115 cases of torture or ill-treatment in 2021.1 During their six-month detention starting in 2018, 100% Noticias journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau were allegedly tortured.2 Pineda now lives in exile in Costa Rica, but her reporting team in Nicaragua still faces threats, surveillance, and other abuses by authorities.3 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.4
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.5 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.6
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.7 He was eventually arrested and deported in October 2018.8
Online dissidents report that, in addition to receiving threats, they and their relatives commonly face police intimidation, as do loved ones of those living in exile.9 In February 2022, while raiding the home of María Flordeliz Ordóñez, a journalist for independent digital outlet Notimatv, police beat and threatened Ordóñez’ husband while questioning her about her reporting.10 Critical users have also reported being beaten during arrests in an effort by police to make them hand over passwords of seized cellphones.11
- 1“Nicaragua: reports of torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners,” Monitor, June 24, 2022, https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2022/01/24/nicaragua-reports-tortur…
- 2Juan Cruz, “Nicaragua, violentamente silenciada [Nicaragua, violently silenced],” El Pais, April 19, 2021, https://elpais.com/internacional/2021-04-18/nicaragua-violentamente-sil…
- 3Institute On Race, Equality And Human Rights, “National Journalists Day In Nicaragua: No Guarantees For Freedom Of The Press,” March 1, 2020, Https://Raceandequality.Org/English/National-Journalists-Day-In-Nicaragua-No-Guarantees-For-Freedom-Of-The-Press/
- 4“Nicaraguan journalist Gerall Chávez and family receive death threats,” CPJ, July 28, 2020, https://cpj.org/2020/07/nicaraguan-journalist-gerall-chavez-and-family-….
- 5Juan Cruz, “Nicaragua, violentamente silenciada [Nicaragua, violently silenced],” El Pais, April 19, 2021, https://elpais.com/internacional/2021-04-18/nicaragua-violentamente-sil…
- 6Carlos Salinas Maldonado, “After a year of protest in Nicaragua, Ortega’s crackdown on the media continues,” Amnesty International, May 3, 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/05/after-year-protest-nicar… .
- 7“Online smear campaign targets freelance reporter in Nicaragua,” Committee to Protect Journalists, September 25, 2018, https://cpj.org/2018/09/online-smear-campaign-targets-freelance-reporte…
- 8“Nicaragua: Arrest and deportation of US-Austrian journalist shows escalating pressure on press freedom,” Article 19, October 3, 2018, https://www.article19.org/resources/nicaragua-arrest-and-deportation-of…; “Nicaragua deports reporter who covered anti-Ortega protests,” The Guardian, October 2, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/02/nicaragua-deports-reporte….
- 9Interviews with two journalists, one satirist, and one social media user known for their criticism of the state, conducted in June 2022.
- 10“Otra periodista abandona Nicaragua por seguridad y ya van 120 exiliados [Another journalist leaves Nicaragua for safety and there are already 120 exiles],” Swiss Info, March 1, 2022, https://www.swissinfo.ch/spa/nicaragua-prensa_otra-periodista-abandona-…
- 11Interview with Kevin Monzon, conducted in June 2022.
|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 Social media accounts belonging to these outlets were also reportedly hacked and hijacked during the coverage period.
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
In January 2022, online newspaper Confidencial reported the hacking of a WhatsApp account it used to send alerts and receive complaints from readers. Some readers reported receiving pornographic images following the hack, though Confidencial denies that the hacker had access to dissemination lists or data on its readers.4 Users also reported receiving messages with sexual content from a WhatsApp account belonging to outlet BacanalNica, which was also hacked.5 Digital outlet Article 66 also reported attempts to hack their WhatsApp account around this time, amounting to 12 daily attempts over a period lasting 20 to 25 days.6 The same month, 100% Noticias’ Twitter account was also hacked by alleged progovernment forces.7
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.8 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 6.9
In September 2020, the government approved a National Cybersecurity Strategy by decree.10
- 1InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, “Annual Report 2019– Chapter IV: Nicaragua,” accessed on July 27, 2021, http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/docs/annual/2019/docs/IA2019cap4BNI-en.docx; Human Rights Watch, “Brutal represión Torturas, tratos crueles y juicios fraudulentos contra manifestantes y opositores en Nicaragua [Brutal repression Torture, cruel treatment and fraudulent trials against protesters and opponents in Nicaragua],” July 19, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/es/report/2019/06/20/brutal-represion/torturas-trat…
- 2“Cyber attack on Nicaraguan media brings IAPA protest,” Sociedad Interamericas de Prensa, April 25, 2018, https://en.sipiapa.org/notas/1212343-cyber-attack-on-nicaraguan-media-b….
- 3“Joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council, on the Universal Periodic Review 33rd Session for Nicaragua,” Access Now, accessed on July 27, 2021, https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2018/10/UPR-Nicaragua-digi… ; “Nicaragua: 11,000 Bots Slam La Prensa in ‘A Direct Attack,’ Voice of America, May 6, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/world-press-freedom/nicaragua-11000-bots-slam-l….
- 4“Confidencial denuncia hackeo a su número de Whatsapp [Confidential denounces hacking of his Whatsapp number],” Nicaragua Investiga, January 6, 2022, https://nicaraguainvestiga.com/politica/71610-confidencial-denuncia-hac…
- 5“Cuenta WhatsApp de Confidencial, Bacanal Nica y Canal 10 fueron hackeadas [WhatsApp account of Confidencial, Bacanal Nica and Canal 10 were hacked],” 100% Noticias, January 7, 2022, https://100noticias.com.ni/nacionales/112424-whatsapp-medios-comunicaci…;
- 6“La verdad del regimen zanahoria a propagandistas y palo a independientes [The truth of the carrot regime to propagandists and stick to independents],” Expediente Publico, March 23, 2022, https://www.expedientepublico.org/la-verdad-del-regimen-zanahoria-a-pro…
- 7“Hackean cuenta de Twitter de medio independiente 100% Noticias [Twitter account of independent media outlet 100% hacked],” Zeta Panama, February 2, 2022, https://zeta.com.pa/29226-hackean-cuenta-de-twitter-de-medio-independie…
- 8Jake Kincaid, “Anonymous hack exposes Nicaraguan government secret COVID-19 data,” Miami Herald, August 28, 2020, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article245…
- 9“Anonymous ataca el principal portal informativo del Gobierno de Nicaragua [Anonymous attacks the main information portal of the Government of Nicaragua],” April 30, 2018, https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/04/29/america/1525030479_560246.h… ; “’This Is Just The Beginning’: Anonymous Begins Attack On Nicaragua Institutions,” Today Nicaragua, May 14, 2020, https://todaynicaragua.com/this-is-just-the-beginning-anonymous-begins-…
- 10“Nicaragua adopta por decreto política de ciberseguridad que controla las redes sociales [Nicaragua adopts cybersecurity policy by decree that controls social networks]”, El Comercio, September 29, 2020, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/mundo/nicaragua-decreto-control-r…; “Nicaragua raises alarm with repressive draft laws,” Financial Times, October 4, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/2c0ed64d-db7b-4bd4-acd1-61a978da9f84.
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score19 100 not free
Internet Freedom Score42 100 partly free
Freedom in the World StatusNot Free