Nicaragua | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2009

2009 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

  • The constitution provides for freedom of the press but also allows some forms of restriction. New rules on libel in the penal code, which took effect in July, eliminated the direct liability of publishers, editors, and owners of publications. It also stipulates that public officials are not libeled when they are criticized with respect to their official duties, concerning true facts, or in defense of or linked to the public interest, and so long as the news “has been reported in line with journalistic ethics.”
  • Judges are often aligned with political parties, and some have restricted reporters from covering certain stories. Cases of judicial intimidation have also been reported.
  • The administration of President Daniel Ortega frequently criticized the press during the year, calling them “traitors” and “murderers,” and favored progovernment media outlets.
  • The government made several attempts in 2008 to increase its editorial influence over the media, including the appointment of the president’s wife, Rosario Murillo, as the government’s point person for all media relations. The popular talk-show of political commentator Jaime Arellano was cancelled by Channel 10, reportedly in return for the government agreeing to issue the station a radio license. The show was also canceled by Channel 2, reportedly after the government threatened not to renew its broadcast license.
  • There have been reports of preferential treatment for journalists who are loyal to the ruling party and intimidation of those who criticize it.
  • While physical attacks on journalists have diminished, a number of reporters received death threats or were harassed during the year. Progovernment and other radio stations reported incidents of vandalism and sabotage, including thefts of copper wiring and damage to transmission equipment.
  • There are 10 Managua-based television stations as well as more than 100 radio stations, which serve as the population’s main source of news. Print media are diverse, with several daily papers presenting progovernment and critical perspectives. Newspaper ownership is concentrated in the hands of various factions of the Chamorro family, while the prominent Sacasa family dominates the television industry. Mexican media tycoon Angel Gonzalez, noted for his holdings in Guatemala and Costa Rica, also owns significant electronic media interests. Several media outlets are owned and controlled by President Ortega’s family and party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The government owns the official Radio Nicaragua.
  • During the year the government spent approximately 40 million cordobas (US$10 million) on publicity in various media, 80 percent of which went to progovernment outlets.
  • There are no government restrictions on the internet, which was used by less than 3 percent of the population in 2008.