In a week full of tense confrontations between protesters and police, there were several acts of violence against journalists, including the deplorable murder of reporter Ángel Gahona.
Nicaragua is burning. In the past few days, an attempt to reform the social security system imposed by the government of Daniel Ortega unleashed a series of mass demonstrations. The protests were repressed by police, resulting in over 30 deaths and several injuries.
The protests, unprecedented under Ortega, were “harshly repressed by police and Sandinista groups” according to news reports and human rights groups. Despite the repression, demonstrations continued, and Ortega ended up cancelling the controversial social security reform.
Despite Ortega’s decision, demonstrations have continued, and are now focused on the government.
The instances of intense violence prompted several IFEX members to speak out.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that at least nine journalists were injured while covering protests in Managua on 19 April, and at least two had their reporting equipment stolen.
In response to this situation, CPJ published a safety advisory and provided suggestions for those covering violence in the country.
The Reporting Centre of Guatemala (Centro de Reportes Informativos de Guatemala) noted that UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell urged the government of Nicaragua to respect freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association following the violence recorded during the recent protests.
On Saturday 21 April, journalist Ángel Gahona was shot dead while conducting an on-air report about the protests in Nicaragua.
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the murder of the Nicaraguan journalist. Gustavo Mohme, president of the association, expressed dismay at the murder, and shared his condolences with the family and colleagues of the journalist.
Roberto Rock, chairman of IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, noted that IAPA has been denouncing authoritarianism and restrictions to freedom of expression imposed by the government of Daniel Ortega in all of its biannual reports.
In Costa Rica, the Institute of Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression (Instituto de Prensa y de Libertad de Expresión) published a statement in response to the attack titled “We cannot accept violence.”
“Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras – and in the last few hours, Nicaragua – now form part of list of countries where journalists are murdered. Many journalists who die on the job are targeted for investigating stories related to drug trafficking, corruption, and organised crime. These kinds of investigations are considered a threat to state powers,” the statement says.
Reporters Without Borders also condemned the attack on its Twitter account.
Repulsa y condena por el asesinato del periodista Miguel Ángel Gahona, en plena cobertura de las protestas en #Nicaragua. Nuestras condolencias a su familia y compañeros. Que este crimen no quede, como tantos, en la impunidad https://t.co/Neqn85rBX1 https://t.co/1l2XndHDfE
— RSF España (@RSF_ES) April 23, 2018
[We express] our repudiation and condemnation of the murder of journalist Miguel Miguel Ángel Gahona, while he was covering the protests in #Nicaragua. Our condolences to his family and colleagues. [Our hope is] that this crime does not remain unpunished, like so many others.
Furthermore, several journalist unions from the Northern Triangle of Central America condemned the matter in a joint statement.
“The Committee for the Protection of Journalists in El Salvador, the Centre for Citizens, the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (APG), the Journalism School of Honduras (CPH) and the Honduran Press Association (APH) repudiate and express our most forceful condemnation of the violence unleashed against journalists and Nicaraguan media outlets by government forces and sympathisers of the Sandinista regime, that in the last few hours resulted in the murder of reporter Ángel Eduardo Gahona, and the destruction and closure of several media outlets,” the statement reads.