Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers in Nicaragua

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers in Nicaragua

Article excerpt

Newspapers in Nicaragua

Old enemies look toward common goal: Becoming more objective and professional

During Nicaragua's civil war, local newspaper journalism was a bitter fight that mixed ideology and family feuding.

Editing the ruling Sandinista party organ, Barricada, was Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Operating the opposition paper, La Prensa, was Carlos' mother, Violeta Chamorro, as well as his sister Christiana and brother Jaime. The Chamorro family had earlier lost its father to assasins supporting the dictator Anastasia Somoza, the dictator ousted by the Sandinistas.

Each paper attacked the other for disinformation and supposed links to the intelligence agencies of foreign powers.

La Prensa, despised by the government, suffered the additional burdens of systematic censorship by the Sandinistas -- a muffling that took the form not only of official censorship but intimidation by government-organized mobs and restrictions on newsprint purchases.

However, in the peace that has followed Violeta Chamorro's surprising landslide election victory over Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, the two papers now share a common goal.

More than anything else, their top editors say, the two papers must learn to become more objective and professional.

Barricada editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro and La Prensa editor Javier Aguerra talked about their shared aspirations and problems at a session during the annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists Oct. 18.

Barricada editor Chamorro said that many of the two papers' journalism problems stemmed from the history of Nicaragua itself.

"The word that best describes Nicaraguan journalism is |polarization,'" he said.

"In this context, Samoza had a very partisan press. After the revolution, the press was very polarized. We were a battlefield, and at the same time we were the instruments of this war," he said.

With the war over, Chamorro said, "I am an optimist because there is a growing awareness among journalists that the Nicaraguan media must become more autonomous than they were in the past. We must learn how to develop a more professional, a more balanced journalism."

La Prensa editor Aguerra agreed that Nicaragua was not so divided.

Still, he said, "It's very tough to make up with old enemies, and still newspapers are divided by the political views of their owners.

"Even though we have a free press," Aguerra said, "we do not have independent newspapers in Nicaragua."

It is apparent, too, that the Nicaraguan public believes its country's newspapers have a long way to go. …

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