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Riot Police illegally raid Esta Semana and CONFIDENCIAL’s studio looking for “coup plotters”

Without a warrant, police seized computers, cameras and television editing equipment, and took dozens of boxes with documents

The shouting of a group of police officers who were trying to open a glass door by force, was the starting point of the second illegal raid against the studios of the Esta Semana and Esta Noche TV programs, and CONFIDENCIAL. The attack was conducted yesterday, May 20th, without a warrant, when riot police entered the building after Leonel Gutiérrez, the audiovisual producer and cameraman of both independent programs, opened the door to prevent them from destroying it. 

Gutiérrez and a cleaning employee from the Invercasa corporate center where the studios were temporarily located were the only people in the small space. Frightened, both tried to find out what was going on. The answer was that police authorities were “raiding” the offices of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, a non-governmental organization that closed its operations on February 6, and which office was located in Plaza San José, at Kilometer 7 1/2 of Carretera Sur.

A policeman was shouting “Where is Walter?”, alluding to Walter Gómez Silva, administrator of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, which the Ministry of Interior ordered to be investigated for alleged inconsistencies which they claim are “money laundering”. The Foundation, however, has no relationship whatsoever with the independent media outlets CONFIDENCIAL, Esta Semana and Esta Noche. 

“This is where the coup plotters meet and work,” said another police officer who was looking for journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of CONFIDENCIAL. 

The riot police ordered the young cleaning worker to stay for questioning. “The investigator is the one in charge here, you cannot leave,” they warned her. They asked her what kind of activities were carried out in the office; how many people worked in the premises, who came to meetings and gave interviews, what was the name of the head of the company. Terrified and on the verge of tears, her answer to all the questions was that she only “came to clean”. 

Outside, the National Police mounted an operation: a dozen patrol cars and almost a hundred anti-riot agents, inside and outside Invercasa. A stairway the only access to the premises was guarded by six armed officers, who did not allow anyone to enter, unless they were identified as a police officer. 

Coverage of the illegal raid was forcibly prevented 

The police deployment disrupted the daily routine of the office complex. Those who tried to take photographs or videos with their cell phones were warned by Invercasa’s security workers to desist, because they would be detained by the police, either by uniformed or plainclothes officers. A group of journalists from national media and foreign agencies were assaulted by agents; the cameraman of Agence France-Presse was detained and released minutes later. 

While police officers outside violently prevented the media raid from being documented, inside, the officers prepared to take the equipment and documents from the office, without any legal basis. They used the patrol cars of the Judicial Assistance Department (Dirección de Auxilio Judicial, DAJ, in Spanish) for the seizure, in which they transported computers and all the equipment of the television studio: recording cameras with their tripods and lights, the switcher and master control, television editors, and dozens of boxes with institutional and personal documents of the journalists. 

The second raid against Esta Semana and CONFIDENCIAL

“This is the second time that the dictatorship launches a frontal attack against this media outlet, which was illegally assaulted in December 13, 2018, when they stole everything from us,”  denounced Carlos Fernando Chamorro, also director of CONFIDENCIAL, a media outlet founded 25 years ago, which has investigated and denounced corruption, abuses of power and arbitrariness of the Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo regime since 2007. 

In December of 2018, the editorial office of CONFIDENCIAL, Esta Semana, Esta Noche and Revista Niú, located in Planes de Altamira a neighborhood in Managua was assaulted and later occupied by the Police for more than two years. In February of this year, an illegal confiscation was consummated, which is prohibited by the Constitution, and the regime assigned the property to the Ministry of Health, which inaugurated a Maternity Home with Ortega and Murillo’s propaganda signs. 

This Thursday, the second illegal raid against CONFIDENCIAL, coincided with an investigation announced by the Ministry of Interior and the Public Ministry against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, for alleged “money laundering”. 

“This condemnable investigation against the Foundation is another act of criminalization against civil society, whose objective is to strip my sister Cristiana Chamorro of her political rights and inhibit her in her condition as presidential pre-candidate of the opposition,” denounced Carlos Fernando Chamorro. 

Chamorro warned about the regime’s intention of trying to justify the raid against the media outlet by using the investigation against the Foundation as an excuse. “I want to clarify, in case they want to establish a link with the police raid on CONFIDENCIAL, that there is no link or relationship between the Foundation, CONFIDENCIAL and Esta Semana,” said the journalist. 

“I do not belong to the Foundation’s board of directors, and the media outlets I manage have not received donations from programs and projects of this Foundation, which they intend to criminalize in order to persecute more independent media outlets,” he specified. 

“They will not silence us. They can steal other television cameras, other accessories, they can occupy the office where we made part of our productions, but we will continue to inform. They will not silence our journalists, they will never confiscate journalism,” said Chamorro. 

They even wanted to take the desks

During this new confiscation, the officers “swept away” everything found in the studio. From computers, video cameras, various documents, books, alcohol gel, masks, even personal items belonging to the journalists, were seized by the National Police. 

“They emptied the office,” said cameraman Leonel Guitérrez upon his release, after being held for more than seven hours, and forced to sign a document stating that he “cannot speak”. 

“Either you sign it or you will be imprisoned”, they threatened him. 

Meanwhile, the ransacked offices of Invercasa, where the recording studio of Esta Semana and CONFIDENCIAL were located, remain guarded by three armed policemen who do not allow anyone to enter. 

“They want to close CONFIDENCIAL for a second time, but they are already failing, because they will never silence journalism. The editorial team of CONFIDENCIAL is not in our confiscated media or in the office that was raided today, but in the commitment of our journalists to tell the truth,” said the director of CONFIDENCIAL. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Ana María Sampson

https://mailchi.mp/confidencial.com.ni/englishnewsletterform


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