Nicaragua | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

42

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

17

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

The administration of President Enrique Bolanos, who took office in 2002, tolerates criticism and diverse views expressed by the media. The constitution from the Sandinista era, which provides for freedom of the press, allows some forms of censorship. Although presidents have not used those powers since the 1980s, no efforts have been made to reform this legal framework. Judges are often aligned with the Sandinista party and are not independent. Some judges have restricted reporters from covering stories, and there have been cases of judicial intimidation. At the end of the year, a Supreme Court ruling on an appeal on constitutional grounds against Law 372, which requires all journalists to register with the Colegio de Periodistas, was still pending.

The safety of journalists became a major issue this year after the murders of two journalists, the first since the 1970s. Although both killings were linked to the polarized political scene, threats against journalists from narcotics traffickers and corrupt police hindered press freedom in some of the more isolated regions of the country. The editors of La Prensa formally asked for government protection for their correspondent Sergio Leon Corea in Bluefields. Leon Corea's home was invaded after he had written stories about the links between police and drug gangs. Carlos Guadamuz, political commentator for Managua's Canal 23 television station, was shot and killed in February. Guadamuz, a controversial political figure and former member of the Sandinista party, frequently used his program to criticize the Sandinista leadership. The man who shot Guadamuz at point-blank range was sentenced to 21 years in prison. In November, Maria Jose Bravo, a correspondent for La Prensa, the country's most popular newspaper, was gunned down by the former Liberal Party mayor of El Ayote. This trial was pending at the end of 2004. 

 Radio is the main news source in the country and has the largest national audience. There are 10 Managua-based television stations, some of which carry obvious partisan content. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, and its media rely on government advertising. The Bolanos government promised to stop the policy of rewarding disproportionate amounts of advertising to supportive media outlets by implementing a standardized system of distributing government advertising based on market share. Some smaller media outlets faced with insufficient financing were forced to close. In December, the national assembly moved to approve a constitutional reform that would revoke the tax-exempt status of media outlets. Some saw this move as an attack on press freedom and revenge for investigative reporting that exposed the corruption of former president Arnoldo Aleman and influential governing parties. Newspaper ownership is concentrated in the hands of various factions of the Chamorro family. Angel Gonzalez, noted for his holdings in Guatemala and Costa Rica, also owns significant electronic media properties. However, the prominent Sacasa family dominates in the television arena. The poor economic climate leaves journalists vulnerable to bribery. A new generation of journalists in Nicaragua is rejecting the old ways of self-censorship and bribery, but this is a slow evolution.