(New York, NY) — PEN America today condemned the Nicaraguan government’s announcement of new charges against journalists including Carlos Fernando Chamorro; called out the administration of President Daniel Ortega and its ongoing attacks on the media, political opposition, and civil society; and demanded that politically motivated charges be dropped and those unjustly detained be released. 

“The charges against Carlos Fernando Chamorro are part of a transparent and callous effort to silence journalists and put another nail in the coffin of independent Nicaraguan media,” said Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America. “But sadly they come as no surprise, against the backdrop of the Ortega regime’s sweeping efforts to shut down political opposition, silence independent voices, and punish those who would speak the truth about Nicaragua’s descent into authoritarianism. The Nicaraguan government must drop these absurd, politically motivated charges, release those unjustly detained, and cease its attacks on the media and civil society.”

In recent weeks, Ortega’s government has increased pressure on dissenting voices by formally charging ten opponents with crimes against the state. Eight of those charged have been in prison since the end of May and were presented at an initial hearing, according to the attorney general’s office. Three of the accused are siblings Cristiana, Pedro Joaquín, and Carlos Fernando Chamorro Barrios; all current or former journalists. Cristiana and Pedro Joaquín are under arrest, while Carlos Fernando has gone into exile months after facing threats of death and imprisonment. The Chamorro family is historically linked to journalism in Nicaragua and in particular to the newspaper La Prensa, which was raided and has been occupied by the police since August 13.

Attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression persist in the country less than three months before the general elections, in which Ortega and Rosario Murillo—his wife and vice-president—will seek re-election for a new term, after having imprisoned seven presidential hopefuls as part of an unprecedented wave of arrests of opposition political leaders, journalists and professionals.

In February, 2021, PEN Nicaragua suspended its activities in the face of increased pressure and reduced space for civil society to operate after the passage of the Foreign Agents Law.