Top journalist Carlos Chamorro flees Nicaragua, cites raids

FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2008 file photo, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who runs the Communication Research Center, Cinco, is surrounded by the police as a search warrant is carried out at Cinco's facilities in Managua, Nicaragua. The prominent Nicaraguan journalist announced in a video posted Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 to his Confidencial Facebook page that he had taken “the painful decision to go into exile to ensure my freedom and physical safety, and above all to carry on independent journalism from Costa Rica.” (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

Prominent Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro has fled to Costa Rica more than a month after the government of President Daniel Ortega raided his company's offices

MEXICO CITY — More than a month after Nicaraguan police raided and occupied his news outlets' offices, prominent journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro has fled to Costa Rica.

Chamorro announced in a video posted Monday on Facebook that he made "the painful decision to go into exile to ensure my freedom and physical safety, and above all to carry on independent journalism from Costa Rica."

Chamorro runs the online news site Confidencial as well as the television programs "Tonight" and "This Week." In mid-December, police swept into their offices and carried away documents, computers and other equipment.

When Chamorro and members of his staff went to the police to demand documentation justifying the raid they were violently pushed away by riot police.

President Daniel Ortega's government has moved in recent weeks against remaining independent voices of dissent in the media and non-governmental organizations.

At least 325 people have been killed in the suppression of anti-government protests that began last April.

Thousands have fled the country in self-imposed exile, including more than 50 journalists, Chamorro says. In April, journalist Angel Gahona was killed while reporting live via Facebook on protests in the southeastern city of Bluefields.

Last Friday, the newspaper La Prensa ran a blank front page bearing only the question: "Have you imagined living without information?" The government has been holding up its supplies of newsprint and ink, forcing the paper to reduce its page count and take other steps to save resources.

In a column published on Confidencial's website Sunday, Chamorro said he had exhausted his legal options in Nicaragua and now would have to continue doing journalism from Costa Rica. He said threats and criminalization of his work had only intensified.

Chamorro demanded the release of political prisoners, including fellow journalists Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau of 100% Noticias, who were arrested in December.

After the Sandinistas overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza, Chamorro ran their newspaper, La Barricada, for years. His mother, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, was with the Sandinistas when they took power in 1979, but she ran against Ortega for the presidency and won in 1990.

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