MANAGUA – Two newspapers and a website run by Nicaraguan media group ND Medios ceased publication on Friday in the face of economic pressures exerted by the government of President Daniel Ortega.
El Nuevo Diario said in an editorial that it was shutting down both its printed and digital editions due to “economic, technical and logistical difficulties that make their operations unsustainable.”
More than a year ago, Nicaragua’s customs agency began holding up shipments of newsprint and other raw materials bound for ND Medios and for the company – Grupo Editorial La Prensa – that publishes La Prensa and Hoy newspapers.
The agency acted “without any legal or administrative justification,” ND Medios managing director Arnulfo Somarriba said in July, when customs officials finally released a small portion of the supplies.
The lack of newsprint had earlier forced El Nuevo Diario to cut back to five days a week and reduce the number of pages from 38 to eight.
In addition to El Nuevo Diario, ND Medios shut down Metro, a free paper distributed in Managua, and youth-oriented website Maje.
The tabloid Q’Hubo – which also belonged to ND Medios (whose corporate name is Editorial Nuevo Amanecer) – also has disappeared from the streets due to a lack of availability of printing paper.
La Prensa and Hoy, meanwhile, have been forced to reduced their number of pages.
The editor-in-chief of La Prensa, Eduardo Enriquez, told EFE that the daily is under “permanent threat” and that the government is determined to make it irrelevant.
A daily whose origins date back 93 years and that is owned by a family with deep journalist roots, La Prensa is “more willing to make sacrifices to stay in existence,” he said.
Enriquez said the owners of ND Medios, the Nicaraguan private consortium Promerica, “made a business decision amid all the government-imposed obstacles and attacks on freedom of expression and information.”
He added that those factors, combined with the Central American country’s economic crisis and challenges facing the traditional media worldwide, created a “perfect storm.”
Sergio Ramirez, a Nicaraguan writer and intellectual who served as vice president from 1985-1990 during the leftist Ortega’s first stint as president, said the closure of these media outlets due to the blocking of newsprint imports was an act of repression that also threatens La Prensa and is a “blow to freedom of expression that we must repudiate and denounce.”
“Today is a day of national mourning. A newspaper, El Nuevo Diario, closed due to a lack of raw material (that was blocked) by the dictatorship,” said journalist Cristiana Chamorro, director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
The Miami-based Inter-American Press Association, for its part, said that it was a “shame for Nicaragua and for the free world” that El Nuevo Diario was forced to shut down due to the “repressive policy of the Daniel Ortega regime.”
Nicaragua has been mired in a socio-political crisis since April 2018 that has left at least 328 dead, according to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, although Nicaraguan rights groups put that number at 595 while Ortega’s administration acknowledges only 200 deaths and denounces an alleged coup attempt.