This Guardian’s editor-in-chief received the following letter but has refused to publish it, even in shorter form.
For the past three months, there has been a political crisis in Nicaragua, with opposing forces not only confronting each other in the streets but fighting a media war. The Guardian should be at the forefront of balanced and well-informed reporting of these events. Instead, despite plentiful evidence of opposition violence, almost all your 17 reports since mid-April blame Daniel Ortega’s government for the majority of deaths that have occurred. One of your most recent articles (“The Nicaraguan students who became reluctant rebels”, July 10) leaves unchallenged an opposition claim that theirs is “a totally peaceful struggle.” Only one article (July 4) gives significant space to the government version of events.
While most of the recent violence is associated with opposition barricades erected across the country, you still refer to a “wave of violence and repression by the government” (June 24). Not once do you refer to the numerous deaths of government supporters or the 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries suffered by the police, including the killing of four policemen observing a “peace” demonstration on July 12. Nor did you report the only attack on a member of the “national dialogue” set up to try resolve the crisis, when student leader Leonel Morales was shot and left for dead on June 12; he is a government supporter. Your report from Masaya (June 12) failed to mention that the protestors had burnt down public buildings, ransacked shops and destroyed the homes of government officials. Nor did you record the kidnapping of hundreds of long-distance lorries and drivers, who spent a month in effective captivity despite efforts by their ambassadors and international mediators to secure their release (eventually achieved by the government on July 8). Your report of the shooting of a one year-old boy in “the latest round of government repression” (June 25) does not mention video evidence that he was killed by opposition youths.
The author of several articles, Carl David Goette-Luciak, openly associates with opposition figures. On July 5 he blamed the police for the terrible house fire in Managua three weeks earlier, relying largely on assertions from government opponents. Yet videos appearing to show police presence were actually taken on April 21, before barricades were erected to prevent police entering the area.
Several times you cite “human rights activists” who are often long-standing government opponents (such as Vilma Núñez, April 28, who told the BBC on July 10 that Ortega now has an “extermination plan”). You unquestioningly quote Amnesty International (May 31) even though their reports turn a blind eye to violence by protesters. You do not refer to detailed evidence that opposition groups benefit from millions of dollars in US funding aimed at “nurturing” the Nicaraguan uprising (theglobalamericans.org, May 1).
On June 6 you said that “Ortega has lost control of the streets” and on June 11 that Nicaragua is “a country of barricades.” Since then the government has successfully worked with local people to restore order and remove the vast majority of barricades. Armed bands have been arrested in the process, including members of notorious gangs from El Salvador. This goes unreported.
Most of the articles refer to protestors’ demands that Ortega should simply renounce the presidency, but not that international bodies mediating the crisis (the UN, Organisation of American States and the Central American Integration System) have all rejected this as being unconstitutional and likely to produce chaos. You have given sparse coverage to the many marches by government supporters calling for a peaceful, negotiated outcome.
Recently, Simon Jenkins wrote in a different context (July 5) of “the rush to judgment at the bidding of the news agenda” in which “social media and false news are weaponised.” In our view this is precisely what is happening in mainstream reporting of Nicaragua. We call on the Guardian to take a more responsible stand, to challenge the abundant misinformation and in future to provide a much more balanced analysis of the crisis.
Ellen Barfield, Baltimore, MD Chapter Veterans for Peace
Brian Becker, Radio Show Host, Loud & Clear
Carol Berman, Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance
Max Blumenthal, journalist
Al Burke, Editor, Nordic News Network
Lee Camp, head writer/host of Redacted Tonight
Maritza Castillo, Nicaraguan activist
Sofía Clark, political analyst
Mitchel Cohen, former Chair, WBAI radio Local Board
Don DeBar, writer and radio journalist
Warwick Fry, writer and radio journalist
Greg Grandin, journalist
Peter Grimes, sociologist and author
Paul Baker Hernández, singer, song-writer
Chuck Kaufman, Alliance for Global Justice
Dan Kovalik, human rights lawyer
Barbara Larcom, Baltimore Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay
Abby Martin, journalist and presenter, The Empire Files
Arnold Matlin M.D, Rochester (NY) Committee on Latin America
Camilo Mejia, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience