Above: Nicaraguans celebrate 1979 revolution, July 2018.-By Alfred Zniga for Associated Press.
Letter to Democracy Now about their coverage of the Nicaragua crisis
We are a group of journalists, writers and activists with knowledge of the current crisis in Nicaragua who want to express our concern about Democracy Now’s coverage of it. We believe that the four recent programs you have run on Nicaragua have not given the balanced assessment we would expect of what is a complex situation, where local media are highly polarised and there is prolific dissemination of ‘fake news’.
We acknowledge that progressive opinion about Daniel Ortega’s government and what has happened in Nicaragua since April this year is divided. Some, including people who were active in support of the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s, now support Ortega’s opponents. Others, and we include ourselves in this group, may have criticisms of the Ortega government but believe that the achievements of the revolution are currently at great risk. This is because while some of the opposition may have (or may have had) revolutionary sentiments, they are aligning with right-wing governments in the hemisphere and with right-wing Republicans in the US whose clear objective is to kill Sandinismo and restore neo-liberal government in Nicaragua. This is evidenced by the fact that the opposition’s sole message is that ‘Ortega must go’ with no explanation of what alternative they offer.
A further important issue is reporting about the violence that has taken place. Lamentably, Democracy Now has accepted opposition claims of high numbers of deaths and that ‘the vast majority have been killed by pro-government forces’. The source of these claims is local ‘human rights’ organisations who are highly partial in their evidence gathering, and which nevertheless have strongly influenced bodies such as Amnesty International. Independent analysis shows that the number of deaths is being exaggerated, that they are attributable to violence on both sides and that since April similar numbers of opposition and of government supporters have been killed.
Of your four programs, the first was exclusively with opposition voices (Alejandro Bendaña, Mónica López Baltodano). The second, with government spokesperson Paul Oquist, was peppered with anti-government images and quotes. The third, where you featured Camilo Mejia, was much more balanced. However, you used material about one of the opposition deaths without balancing that by mentioning, for example, the killing of four police officers a few days earlier or using the material which Camilo sent you beforehand. The latest program, with Noam Chomsky, featured a highly partial introduction even though Chomsky himself mainly spoke about Nicaragua’s history rather than current events. None of your reports have covered the many, heavily attended, pro-government demonstrations, including the massive commemoration of the anniversary of the revolution on July 19.
Our purpose in writing is not to urge you to take a pro-Ortega ‘line’ but to ask for proper balance in your reporting. We acknowledge that your interviews with Paul Oquist and Camilo Mejia responded to concerns expressed earlier by some of those signing this letter. But it is hardly a fair presentation if the background to such interviews is repeated citing of the opposition’s version of events as if it is accepted fact, when it is highly contested. The mainstream media – New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, BBC etc. – have all followed a similar approach. However, we have higher expectations of Democracy Now. We urge you to meet them in your future coverage of Nicaragua.
Max Blumenthal, journalist
Al Burke, Editor, Nordic News Network
Lee Camp, head writer/host of Redacted Tonight
Marilyn Carlisle, Casa Baltimore/Limay delegation leader and activist
Courtney Childs, Chair, Peace and Solidarity Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Sofía Clark, political analyst
Mitchel Cohen, former Chair, WBAI radio Local Board
Dave Cosgrave, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group, UK
Carolina Cositore Sitrin, former Prensa Latina journalist
Dr Francisco Dominguez, Middlesex University, UK
Pat Fry, peace and solidarity activist, NYC
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author, and historian
Paul Baker Hernández, singer, songwriter and author
Chuck Kaufman, Alliance for Global Justice
Dan Kovalik, human rights lawyer
Barbara Larcom, Baltimore Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay
Arnold Matlin M.D, Rochester (NY) Committee on Latin America
Camilo Mejia, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience
Nils McCune, IALA Mesoamerica
Nan McCurdy, Methodist missionary
Barbara Francis Moore, artist, writer
Ben Norton, journalist
Stephen Sefton, writer
Brian Willson, Lawyer activist
Kevin Zeese, co-director, Popular Resistance