The government of Nicaragua abruptly took CNN en Español off the air this week, shortly after 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
It has not explained why it removed CNN’s Spanish-language service, and did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The cable operators carrying CNN en Español in the country also did not comment.
“Today the government of Nicaragua pulled our television signal, denying Nicaraguans news and information from our television network, which they have relied upon for 25 years,” the US-based service said in a statement.
Nicaragua’s government under fifth-term President Daniel Ortega has sharply cracked down on both the press and on critics over the past two years. Many Nicaraguan journalists have been forced into exile, and there remains “practically no independent media within the country,” according to press freedom group Reporters without Borders.
“CNN en Español was the only remaining outlet critical of President Daniel Ortega available to Nicaraguans,” Reuters reported on Thursday.
“Taking CNNE’s signal off the air is a sign of fear, clumsiness, and arrogance. They want to have a society of sheep that would only listen to and obey the official narrative,” tweeted Arturo McFields, Nicaragua’s former ambassador to the Organization of American States.
In recent months, CNN en Español has reported on other examples of repression by the Ortega government, including the detention of a Catholic bishop investigated for “destabilizing and provocative” activities, after he objected to the closure of seven Catholic radio stations linked to the bishop in the country.
Nicaraguans can continue to find Spanish-language news on its website, the service said.
“CNN stands by our network’s reporting and our commitment to truth and transparency,” it said. “At CNN en Español we believe in the vital role that freedom of the press plays in a healthy democracy.”
In March, McFields issued rare public criticism of his own government, labeling Ortega’s regime a “dictatorship” and citing its repression of the media, among other things.
“Since 2018, Nicaragua has become the only country in Central America that has no print newspapers. There’s no freedom to publish a simple tweet, [or posting] a simple comment on social media,” he said at the time.
“There are no human rights organizations … They’ve all been closed, expelled, or shuttered. There are no independent political parties, there are no credible elections, no separation of powers,” he continued.
Nicaraguan state media later posted a letter to Twitter saying McFields did not represent Ortega’s government.