Urgent international action required as human rights defenders and the media are targeted by the Ortega government.
UPDATE – As predicted below, Ortega’s enforcers have been swift. Earlier today the offices of Confidencial were raided by police and computers and other equipment and effects were seized without warning or warrant. This leaves Pedro X. Molina without a publisher and, as the free speech NGOs that would normally defend him and his colleagues have been rendered illegal, with no place to turn for help. Things can only escalate from here. Instead of a new cartoon he’s shared this photo of his desk.
CRNI is alarmed by the most recent reports forthcoming from our current Courage In Editorial Cartooning laureate, Pedro X. Molina of Nicaragua.
Conscientious citizens won’t have failed to observe the deteriorating societal conditions under President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. As citizens took to the streets to protest, in Molina’s own words, “several years of electoral frauds, selective repression, attempts to censor the internet, mismanagement of environmental disasters and the enactment of a social security law that curtails the rights of current and future pensioners” the Nicaraguan government embarked upon increasingly severe counter measures. Several hundred have died in the ensuing year of violence.
Molina’s beautifully rendered expressions of outrage and scabrous caricatures of Ortega and Murillo have in many ways formed the outward, international face of the #SOSNICARAGUA movement. During the month of October, when illustrators and cartoonists everywhere post daily sketches to social media under the #Inktober hashtag, Pedro was adding tender portraits of men, women and children who have disappeared or perished during the ongoing unrest.
From November onward Pedro has been sending us updates on a marked upswing in confiscations of equipment, cyber attacks, unlawful and brutal arrests and serious assaults by paramilitaries aimed at independent journalists, broadcasters and media workers, all reaching a crescendo in the last week or so. At the same time members of the Ortega/Murillo family were fêted at an art event sponsored by UNICEF and PAHO/WHO. The inherent hypocrisy has left a bitter taste in the mouths of those desperate for international condemnation of the regime.
Even more worryingly, human rights NGOs seem to have been added to the scope of the crackdown. On December 10th, World Human Rights Day, the CENIDH organisation was denied permission to demonstrate. Shortly thereafter the organisation’s legal status was revoked entirely. Five more NGOs were similarly declared illegal in twenty-four hours including CINCO, founded by the director of the Confidencial news platform that is the regular publisher of Pedro’s work.
This would all appear to be a prelude to more concerted action against human rights defenders in Nicaragua and as such represents an even greater threat to all citizens. CRNI is wholly satisfied that Pedro Molina is in imminent danger, along with his colleagues in the media across the country. We urge all international bodies to condemn the recent actions of the Nicaraguan government in the strongest terms and where possible intervene on behalf of the populace.
Further reading: Earlier this year Pedro wrote an essay for us summarising the process by which Nicaragua arrived at this crisis and describing the vital function satirical humour plays in the popular resistance.