LatinNews Daily - 29 September 2020

NICARAGUA: Cyber security bill sparks outrage

On 28 September Nicaraguan opposition groups and local press freedom NGOs such as Fundación Violeta Barrios Chamorro (FVBC) expressed concern about a proposed legislative bill unveiled the same day by Nicaragua’s ruling Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN).


The bill, which was presented to the FSLN-controlled national assembly where it is likely to be approved, would make spreading fake news through “information and communication technologies” punishable by up to four years in prison. It has sparked concerns of another threat to the freedom of expression in Nicaragua at a time when the opposition is already warning of a rise in repression by the government led by President Daniel Ortega, which since April 2018 has been carrying out a crackdown on its opponents whom it accuses of seeking to carry out a coup. It follows other proposed bills such as a “foreign agents’ law” and life-imprisonment bill unveiled earlier this month as well as further moves against the independent media.

  • The proposed bill has the declared objective of “providing a legal framework for the prevention, investigation, prosecution and sanctioning of crimes committed through information and communication technologies”. Under the proposed bill, people convicted of crimes such as fraud or cyber-espionage or use of the internet to corrupt minors or for child pornography would face punishments of two to 10 years in prison.
  • The provision which has attracted concern is Art.30, which would allow sentences of two to four years for “the publication or dissemination of false (or) distorted information which produces alarm, fear or distress among the public”.
  • The proposed bill has drawn particular criticism given earlier doubts regarding the veracity of official information relating to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. On 30 June, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet singled out Nicaragua (alongside Brazil and the US) as countries where official communications “deny the reality of viral contagion”, which might “intensify the severity of the pandemic”. 

Looking Ahead: As with the other proposed legislation, the new bill is likely to attract international concern. Yesterday Paulo Abrão, the former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), tweeted that it could be used to “criminalise” journalists.

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