Nicaragua | Freedom House

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Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press 2017



Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom of the Press Scores

(0=Most Free, 100=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Internet Penetration Rate: 

Key Developments in 2016:

  • Daniel Ortega was reelected for a third consecutive term as president in November, at which point he had not held a formal press conference in more than nine years.
  • In June, authorities arbitrarily expelled a U.S. researcher investigating the country’s interoceanic canal project, adding to a pattern of secrecy surrounding the controversial enterprise.
  • In October, the magazine Confidencial reported that members of the military and ruling party had questioned and intimidated its journalists and attempted to spy on its operations.

Executive Summary

Nicaragua has some legal protections for media freedom. However, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) has maintained restrictive media policies since the party took power in 2007, including preferential treatment for the progovernment press and denial of official advertising worth millions of dollars to independent and opposition outlets. Nearly all television stations are owned by either the president’s family or Mexican media mogul Ángel González, whose outlets avoid criticism of the government. Several other news sources are controlled by FSLN-affiliated owners. Progovernment media bias was especially apparent in the period surrounding the 2016 elections.

The Ortega administration tightly restricts access to information. The politically powerful first lady, Rosario Murillo, is the government spokesperson and presides over the unofficial Communication and Citizenship Council, which acts as a clearinghouse for government information and routinely denies journalists’ requests. Murillo was elected vice president on her husband’s ticket in November 2016.

Journalists investigating the interoceanic canal project have come under immense pressure in recent years, as the government seeks to suppress reporting on public opposition to the construction, allegations of corruption and malfeasance, and potential environmental damage, among other concerns. In June 2016, a researcher sponsored by the U.S. government was expelled from the country less than a day after he arrived to conduct interviews about the canal.

In October, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of the magazine Confidencial, accused the army and the FSLN of attempting to spy on the outlet and its journalists. He issued a complaint to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) after two employees were questioned in late September regarding the magazine’s operations and information security and told that the magazine was harming the FSLN’s election campaign.

Explanatory Note

This country report has been abridged for Freedom of the Press 2017. For background information on press freedom in Nicaragua, see Freedom of the Press 2016.