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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Nicaraguan journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda released as part of controversial Amnesty Law



In the early hours of June 11, the director and the chief of information of Nicaragua’s 100% Noticias, Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda, were released after six months in prison.

Mora and Pineda were set free along with political prisoners and leaders of social demonstrations against the government that began in April 2018. The group release began on June 10, as a result of the approval of the controversial Amnesty Law by a majority vote of the Nicaraguan National Assembly. According to the law, all persons who allegedly committed crimes during the political crisis are absolved, BBC News Mundo reported.

Regarding the law and after his release, Mora pointed out that he was never convicted, that his trial was postponed up to six times and therefore he should not have been amnestied, according to a video published by Artículo 66 on Facebook.

"It's a simple corrupt system of justice: president [Daniel] Ortega orders his militants to accuse so-and-so for murder, the prosecutor seizes him, presents him before a Sandinista judge and they throw you in prison, without initiating a trial, half a year. That's what happened," Mora said about his case to Nicaraguan journalist María Lilly Delgado of Univisión in the Artículo 66 video.

"It’s that I do not know what kind of law it is, because according to what they are saying to me now, it is an amnesty law, but it remembers, it has memory, in other words if you go to a march again or if we return to informing, it could be, they throw us in prison again! We inform, here there was a massacre, here children died, thirty, and young people. That is a truth. Here there is a dictatorship. That is a truth," Mora stressed to the journalists.

Regarding the six months he spent imprisoned in the Penitentiary System for Men "Jorge Navarro," known as “La Modelo," Mora told the press that what the government was looking for was to break their spirit, to treat them like animals. "They treated us political prisoners worse than that, because the orientation was to break our morale, for us to ask them for forgiveness," Mora said in the video published by Artículo 66.

Likewise, Pineda told the press that she suffered psychological attacks during her imprisonment and that what the government was looking for with her was to criminalize her right to inform. "They told us that we were coup leaders," Pineda said in the video published by Artículo 66. The journalist explained that in the prison known as El Chipote, the police demanded her to film a video in which she asked Ortega to forgive her for having called him a dictator.

"There, in El Chipote, they had me for a week alone, in a cell," the journalist said. Other prisoners from neighboring cells read her the Bible and they prayed together, Pineda said. On Jan. 30, she was transferred to the La Esperanza women's prison, where she was held in a cell in isolation, until her release on June 11.

Mora and Pineda affirmed before their fellow journalists that they will continue reporting and doing their journalistic work.

"I think I'm going to travel to Costa Rica for a few days, but of course, I want to continue with 100% Noticias," Pineda announced. "I have to go to Costa Rica because I have a lot to thank Costa Rica for. It's my other homeland," she said.

Both journalists were imprisoned since Dec. 21, 2018, when a group of police raided their offices, took their signal off the air and took them first to El Chipote.

They were accused of "fomenting and inciting hatred and violence" and "provocation, proposition and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts".

During the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who was overthrown in 1979 by the Sandinista revolution that now governs Nicaragua with Ortega as leader, the rebels were tortured and shot in El Chipote prison, according to an article from Diario Las Américas..

On June 10, the first group of 50 political prisoners was released. A journalist from Masaya, Marlon Jerónimo Powell Sánchez, was among them, according to Article 66.

According to a report in El Confidencial published in early June, after the April 2018 demonstrations against the Ortega government, Powell was accused of terrorism by the government, along with a group of people.

Since July 2018, he spent several months in hiding, fleeing from the authorities, until on March 7 he was detained and taken to El Chipote, where he was detained for 53 days before a judicial process was opened and he was transferred to “La Modelo,” according to the report.

In the city of Masaya, in the Department of the same name, Powell worked as a journalist and director of the program "El dedo en la llaga," which aired on Radio Estéreo Caliente and Radio La Consentida.

According to El Confidencial, on his program, Powell denounced the abuses of the Ortega regime and of the municipality of Masaya.

On June 10, a day before Mora and Pineda were released, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a full-page ad in The Washington Post in which they urged Ortega to fulfill his promise to free the journalists from 100% Noticias.

A delegation from the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), led by organization President María Elvira Domínguez, that arrived in Nicaragua on June 10 to demand the release of Mora and Pineda, was “pleasantly surprised” with the news of the journalists’ release, according to what the organization published on its site.

Also on the IAPA’s agenda was to demand the resolution of the April 21, 2018 murder of journalist Ángel Gahona.

Since April 18, 2018 when Nicaraguans rebelled against the government of Ortega and first lady Rosario Murillo after an attempt to reform the pension system, more than 300 people have died as a consequence of the repression of the Armed Forces. Gahona died from a bullet to the head while broadcasting the demonstrations against Ortega via Facebook Live.

Two young men were convicted in the case after a trial that was described as a “mockery” by the journalist’s widow. They were released on June 11 along with demonstrators.

"The people of Nicaragua have to be sure that they have a generation of leaders ready to take power. And to take the power to establish democracy in Nicaragua, and to restore the rule of law. And the people themselves have earned that respect at the international level in such a way that the entire international community is supporting us," Mora said. "That's why Ortega is going back, wanting to solve his mistakes but this has no turning back, change comes, and nothing and no one stops it," he emphasized.



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