Ortega chokes the Nicaraguan press, but it seems that God will provide
The Daniel Ortega government has held back tons of newspaper printing supplies from customs in a slow and systematic media suffocation.
On September 27, 2019, the Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario announced that, after almost 40 years of work, it was ceasing operations, both in its print and digital editions, indefinitely. This was due to economic, technical and logistical difficulties that they could no longer face. At the same time, because it was part of the same publishing house, Metro, another print media, closed down.
Q'hubo, a newspaper on popular topics, also closed its print edition as of December 21, 2018.
The three had in common to have to close because of the retention of their basic material: paper and ink.
In the last week of January 2020, Nicaragua's oldest newspaper, La Prensa, published an editorial warning of the imminent possibility that it would suffer the same fate as its colleagues.
Despite the fact that during the last few years La Prensa has dedicated itself to strengthen its digital edition and this one would not close, if it stopped the circulation, Nicaragua would become the first country in the world without any printed newspaper.
According to this editorial, even "in Cuba, where there is no freedom of expression or independent press, the same communist regime publishes the official information and propaganda newspapers, Granma and Juventud Rebelde. [...] Even in the failed states, such as Syria, Somalia and Southern Sudan, there are written newspapers".
For more than 500 days, the Ortega government has held at Customs approximately 94 tons of paper in reels, inks and machinery parts that the newspaper used in its presses.
Thus, little by little, it was suffocated.
La Prensa, seeking to lengthen its subsistence, has resorted to multiple options: shortening its length from almost 100 pages to 4, stopping distribution throughout the country to do so in only four cities, cutting back on personnel, printing on other types of paper that are more expensive but still more abundant in the territory, it has been a war of attrition.
To this must be added the 1,080 violations of press freedom (including the systematic and unjustified withholding of raw materials) that the Violeta Barrios Foundation has recorded between April 2018 and 2019. These include the murder of journalist Ángel Gahona, the imprisonment of journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda for allegedly inciting hatred (who were released after six months in prison), the confiscation of the offices of the daily Confidencial and 100% Noticias, a television channel.
The alarm raised by La Prensa caused international concern and, among other voices of support, came that of the Church.
Apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Waldemar Sommertag (equivalent to a Vatican ambassador in Nicaragua) arranged for a communication channel to be opened with Ortega's administration so that La Prensa could have access to review the detained material and eventually use it. This, in turn, was backed by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes.
The news was released in a statement from the Board of Directors of Editorial La Prensa where they show their caution towards the government but also their hope that, perhaps, God will provide.