Nicaragua says seized TV station won’t be returned to owners

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — The Nicaraguan government says a private TV station seized by police in December will not be returned to its owners, alleging the media outlet had been used to incite anti-government violence.

Critics of the government of President Daniel Ortega said the government allegation is false and that authorities are continuing a campaign to intimidate journalists and muzzle free speech.

The decision not to return the 100% Noticias TV station and license to transmit news was announced by the Nicaraguan government in a 24-page statement to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

The Sept. 20 statement, which was seen by The Associated Press on Saturday, was a response to a commission request that the TV station be returned to its owners.

The government told the commission that the occupation of the TV station was necessary while it investigated the station’s director, Miguel Mora, and head of news Lucía Pineda for alleged involvement in a “failed coup attempt.”

Mora and Pineda were both jailed for six months.

Contacted by The AP in Costa Rica, where she now resides, Pineda accused Ortega of theft and said she and colleagues will continue to campaign for the return of the TV station.

Hundreds of Nicaraguans have been killed, jailed or forced into exile since protests demanding Ortega’s resignation erupted in April 2018. The government described the protests as a coup attempt.

In addition to 100% Noticias, the Ortega government has seized the news weekly Confidencial and TV programs Esta Noche and Esta Semana, all property of Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who has also been living in Costa Rica.

The government statement denied that the roughly 70 journalists who have fled Nicaragua did so because of government threats.