Nicaragua daily critical of Ortega forced to close

Managua (AFP) –


One of Nicaragua's main newspapers critical of President Daniel Ortega announced it had published its last edition Friday, citing government repression.

El Nuevo Diario said it was ceasing publication "due to economic, technical and logistical difficulties that make its operation unsustainable."

"We know that this is part of the government's repression against journalists," said Blanca Reyes, an editor at the newspaper.

"Since April 2018 we have been under bullets, siege and persecution," she said.

The Central American state, led since 2006 by Ortega, has been gripped by crisis since April 2018, when opposition protests mushroomed into a popular uprising that was met with a brutal crackdown.

Political violence left more than 300 people dead and 2,000 wounded, according to rights groups, while hundreds of opposition supporters were jailed and tens of thousands of people fled the country.

The paper said the government had blocked imports of newsprint for almost a year, forcing it to trim pages from its daily editions and cease weekend publication altogether as it struggled to cope.

"There's no doubt that the closure is part of what the newspapers have been experiencing with raw material being retained by customs," said journalist Ernesto Garcia, a 13-year veteran of the paper.

The country's other main independent daily, La Prensa, faces similar woes.

Nuevo Diario's free sister publication in Managua, Metro, has also ceased publication.

Former Nicaraguan vice president Sergio Ramirez slammed the closures on social media, calling them "a blow to freedom of expression that we must repudiate and denounce."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' special rapporteur for freedom of expression, Edison Lanza, said the closure was the start of "a new stage of sophisticated repression" against the media.