Nicaragua’s Ortega is strangling La Prensa, one of Latin America’s most storied newspapers

August 4, 2019

— Jaime Chamorro, a member of Central America’s most prominent journalism dynasty, remembers the first time he felt the government’s wrath.

The Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza Garcia, had shut down his family’s newspaper and forced his father into exile.

“I was 10,” Chamorro says.

Seventy-five years later, La Prensa has become a legend for its fearless reporting and editorials — and its persistence. It has been closed, temporarily, by right- and left-wing governments alike. One editor was assassinated. Its headquarters were bombed.

But now, the paper might be facing its greatest threat yet.

“They’ve cut off our newsprint,” said Chamorro, the publisher, sitting in an office crammed with papers and photos of his family.

La Prensa is a target of one of the most severe clampdowns on independent media in the hemisphere. Over the past year, as President Daniel Ortega has crushed a student-led rebellion, his government has raided news organizations and harassed and jailed reporters. More than 100 journalists have gone into exile, according to the U.N. human rights body.

The government customs office has held up La Prensa’s imports of newsprint and ink since October, according to its editors. Nicaragua’s leading daily is now a skeletal eight pages — down from 36.

While La Prensa operates a website, it still draws most of its income from its newspaper. As its supply of newsprint dwindles, the entire organization could be forced to close.

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