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Presidential security guards manhandle and briefly detain journalist

(PROBIDAD/IFEX) - Journalist Jorge Loáisiga, who works for "La Prensa" newspaper was mistreated by presidential security guards on the night of 19 December 2007. The incident occurred at a public ceremony in Managua, the capital, attended by the president and several ambassadors. Loáisiga was trying to obtain comments from the United States ambassador when he was very roughly detained by the guards, who turned him over to the police. The journalist was handcuffed and being led away as a detainee, but the authorities stopped when other journalists and local residents protested.

National Police Chief Aminta Granera defended the conduct of the presidential guards and her subordinates, accusing the journalist of having trespassed the security perimeter. "The journalist suddenly burst through the first security perimeter set up by the police for the ceremony in which the president was participating," she said. However, Loáisiga publicly denied this, saying, "We're journalists, we presented ourselves and walked through in view of the police, who said absolutely nothing - no warning, as Commissioner Granera dishonestly and misleadingly implied."

The incident comes at a moment of growing concern in some quarters about tendencies perceived as authoritarian displayed by President Daniel Ortega's government. Ortega frequently discredits the press's work in his speeches. There is a tense atmosphere due to the president's intention to organise support groups, called Citizen's Power Councils (Consejos del Poder Ciudadano), which is opposed by the National Assembly and opposition sectors. There is fear that these councils will be used as shock groups to silence criticism of the government, as well as serving as client networks for gaining access to public services.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, intimidation and threats against journalists "violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression." According to the Declaration, states have a duty to "prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."

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