CNN signal pulled in Nicaragua amid crackdown on media

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The Spanish-language variant of CNN was pulled from cable systems in Nicaragua this week amid a crackdown on news media in that country.

The signal of CNN en Español was dropped from all cable television providers and blocked on satellite systems in Nicaragua on Wednesday, a move that came without warning to CNN’s staff members working there.

The request to pull CNN en Español purportedly came from government officials working on behalf of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. In recent weeks, Ortega’s administration has cracked down on independent media outlets broadcasting in the country, particularly those who are critical of his policies.

“CNN en Español was the only remaining outlet critical of President Daniel Ortega available to Nicaraguans,” Reuters journalist Ismael Lopez Ocampo wrote in a story for that news outlet on Thursday.

The media crackdown has seen several independent and foreign-based broadcast outlets shut in recent weeks, including Voice of America affiliate Radio Dario, which had also published news reports that showed Ortega in a critical light. Government officials also closed several radio stations that were affiliated with the Catholic Church after they were linked to a bishop who spoke out against Ortega and his policies.

In the meantime, Ortega has worked to forge partnerships with foreign broadcasters who are producing more-favorable coverage of his administration. Last week, Ortega announced an agreement with Russia-based Sputnik News that will see the news outlet produce more content in Nicaragua through a media cooperation with the government.

The goal of the agreement between Sputnik News and the Nicaraguan government was announced as a way to “promote mutual understanding” between the two countries, Voice of America said. At a ceremony where the media agreement was announced, Sputnik News executive Vasily Pushkov called western media outlets based in the country “informative garbage.”

“They call it ‘garbage’ and ‘fake news’ — all information from independent media,” Christopher Mendoza, an independent journalist working in Nicaragua, said in an interview. “We are becoming more like North Korea — that is the commitment of the Ortega regime, to not tell a single reality, a single truth.”

Nicaragua has some of the toughest media restrictions in the world, including a law passed two years ago that makes publishing “fake news” online a cyber crime punishable by up to four years in prison. Revealing information without prior authorization of the government is a separate crime that could land a reporter up to eight years behind bars.