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Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Nicaragua

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2005
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2004 - Nicaragua, February 2005, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nicaraguan journalists say they are often able to work freely, but reporters in isolated regions where the government has little control remain at particular risk from drug traffickers and corrupt officials.

Relations between the government and the press have improved since President Enrique Bolaños Geyer took office in 2002. Journalists say they are able to criticize Bolaños without reprisal, unlike under former President Arnoldo Alemán. Plagued by corruption scandals, many uncovered by the press, Alemán's government retaliated by doling out state advertising to reward or punish news outlets for their coverage.

Journalists remain concerned that the government gives a disproportionate share of advertising to large media outlets that support its agenda at the expense of smaller organizations without government ties. But some say the distribution has become more equitable under Bolaños.

One commentator was murdered in 2004 in retaliation for his work. Carlos José Guadamuz, the outspoken host of "Dardos al centro" (Darts to the Bull's-Eye) on TV station Canal 23, was killed as he arrived at work in the capital, Managua, on February 10 by William Hurtado García, a one-time state security agent under the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) government. Hurtado shot Guadamuz several times at point-blank range before Guadamuz's son and Canal 23 employees subdued him, authorities said.

Hurtado, who pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced to 21 years in prison, said in court that he killed Guadamuz because of the commentator's frequent criticism of the FSLN. The journalist, once a senior FSLN official himself, parted ways with the party in the 1990s and became a fierce opponent of the FSLN and leaders such as Daniel Ortega. Two others charged as accomplices were acquitted, although prosecutors appealed.

María José Bravo, a correspondent for the Managua-based daily La Prensa (The Press), was shot and killed on November 9 while covering a municipal election dispute in Juigalpa, the capital of Chontales Department.

In neglected and destitute regions such as the Atlantic Coast, journalists face retaliation if they report on pervasive drug trafficking and corruption. Sergio León Corea, Bluefields correspondent for the La Prensa, said he has been threatened and intimidated for his reporting on the drug trade and police malfeasance.

On August 17, someone broke into León Corea's house and tried to force open the door to his bedroom, where he was sleeping with his wife and daughter, he said. León Corea scared off the intruder and no one was hurt, he said, but the next day police intelligence agents followed him. León Corea filed an official complaint, but police did not follow up on promises to provide security. He said journalists in the Atlantic Coast region are very careful about what they write because corruption is so widespread.

A bill to improve access to government information stagnated after its introduction in the legislature in late 2003. The measure would define public information and set forth a process to obtain such records. Some journalists say the National Assembly was nearly paralyzed in 2004 because of conflicts between political parties and between the legislative and the executive branches.

2004 Documented Cases – Nicaragua

FEBRUARY 10, 2004
Posted: February 11, 2004

Carlos José Guadamuz, Canal 23

Guadamuz, who hosts "Dardos al centro" (Darts to the Bull's-eye) on TV station Canal 23, was shot dead in Nicaragua's capital, Managua, as he was arriving to work. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) continues to investigate whether his murder is related to his journalistic work.

According to local news reports, the journalist's murder took place at around 1 p.m. in Canal 23's parking lot. As Guadamuz got out of his pick-up truck with one of his sons, a gunman, who apparently had been waiting for him, fired several shots at the journalist at point-blank range. The gunman then fled but stumbled and was captured by Guadamuz's son and Canal 23 employees and was subdued. Guadamuz was taken to a Managua hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. The murderer has been identified as William Hurtado García, who worked as a local merchant and as a security guard.

Guadamuz, a former high-ranking member of the opposition Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) party, was imprisoned in the late 1960s for opposing Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. During his imprisonment, Guadamuz shared a prison cell with friend and FSLN leader Daniel Ortega, with whom he had a highly publicized falling-out in the late '90s.

A controversial journalist and a former FSLN candidate for mayor of Managua, Guadamuz used to be manager and part owner of popular pro-FSLN radio station Radio Ya, from which he was removed in 1999 because of a lawsuit believed by many to be instigated by Ortega. In 2003, he had registered himself as a candidate for the post of Managua's mayor for the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC).

Since 1996, Guadamuz had been a fierce critic of Ortega – currently the opposition leader – and other FSLN high-ranking officials, whom he often labeled as corrupt. During the latest editions of "Dardos al centro," he had accused Ortega of receiving bribes and using judges close to the FSLN for personal deals, according to the Managua daily La Prensa.

In statements made to the local press, Guadamuz's oldest son blamed Ortega for his father's murder and declared that his father had often received threats. According to The Associated Press, police are investigating whether Ortega was involved.

The Public Prosecutor's Office, which has named a prosecutor to look into the case, has not commented on the possible motives for his murder.

NOVEMBER 9, 2004
Posted: November 10, 2004

María José Bravo, La Prensa

Reporter Bravo, who was covering a dispute over recent elections, was killed outside an electoral office in the city of Juigalpa, capital of central Chontales Department.

The 26-year-old Bravo, a correspondent for the Managua daily La Prensa in Chontales, had just exited the Juigalpa vote-counting center and was talking to several people when she was shot once at close range at around 6:30 p.m., La Prensa reported. She was taken to a hospital in Juigalpa but was declared dead on arrival.

Bravo was covering protests by supporters of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), which has a majority in the National Assembly, and supporters of the Alliance for the Republic (APRE) coalition, which backs President Enrique Bolaños Geyer. Both sides were challenging the results of the November 7 elections in two municipalities.

On the evening of her murder, police detained Eugenio Hernández González, a former PLC mayor of the town of El Ayote, and identified him as the main suspect in Bravo's death, according to La Prensa. Police took a .38-caliber handgun from Hernández. Some witnesses interviewed by La Prensa claimed to have seen Hernández reach for a handgun just before Bravo was shot. It is unclear whether Bravo was targeted, and, if so, what the motive for her killing was.

After the results of the November 7 elections were announced this week confirming a major victory for the opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and a significant defeat for the PLC, several incidents of political violence occurred throughout Nicaragua.

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