Nicaragua | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

44

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

18

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

12

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 political parties and some have restricted reporters from covering certain stories; cases of judicial intimidation have also been reported. New initiatives to promote access to information were discussed, but the political will needed to approve a law was lacking. 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 continued to be a major issue this year after one journalist was murdered, the third to be killed in the last two years. In August, Rony Adolfo Olivas, a reporter for the daily La Prensa who had recently written articles on drug trafficking, was shot twice by a taxi driver, who fled the scene of the crime. Santos Roberto Osegueda surrendered himself to the police three days later and was arrested after confessing to the murder of the journalist. Earlier in the year, a judge found a local politician guilty of the November 2004 murder in Juigalpa of journalist Maria Jose Bravo, a reporter for La Prensa. Although two of the recent killings were linked directly 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.

There are 10 Managua-based television stations, some of which carry obviously partisan content, as well as more than 100 radio stations, which serve as the main source of news. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, and its media rely on government advertising. There are still complaints about the political manipulation of government propaganda. Newspaper ownership is concentrated in the hands of various factions of the Chamorro family. The prominent Sacasa family similarly dominates the television industry. Angel Gonzalez, noted for his holdings in Guatemala and Costa Rica, also owns significant electronic media interests. In May, the Acre Law, which reduces tax exonerations that benefit the media on equipment and supply imports, was ratified, and thus far has caused interference in obtaining new materials. 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 process has been slow. There are no government restrictions on the internet, which is used by only 2.2 percent of the population.