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ARTICLE 19 and partners' submission to UN Universal Periodic Review

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 2 October 2009 - ARTICLE 19 has tabled a Submission to the first Universal Periodic Review for Nicaragua (UPR) by the Human Rights Council in February 2010. In partnership with the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), the Centre for Investigation and Communication (CINCO), and the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), the Submission analyses freedom of expression in Nicaragua.

There is growing government intolerance towards an open and vibrant media in Nicaragua. In recent years, various groups have increasingly reacted to criticism and dissent by threatening, harassing and engaging in violence against journalists, political activists and human rights defenders.

ARTICLE 19's Submission highlights how a lack of free and open democratic debate in Nicaragua presents a serious obstacle to the promotion of freedom of expression, along with all other human rights.

The Submission recommends the following:

- Effective measures must be adopted to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other social commentators from attacks aimed at silencing them. Where such attacks do take place, effective investigations must be undertaken to identify and punish those responsible.
- The telecommunications law must be substantially amended to establish an independent body to regulate broadcasting according to the public interest. Auctioning of licenses should be stopped and, instead, a fair and transparent licensing process, based on clear and pre-established public interest considerations, including diversity, should be put in place.
- The telecommunications law must also require the relevant regulatory bodies to adopt a global plan for assigning broadcasting frequencies to all three types of broadcasters - public, private and community. Effective measures must also be put in place to limit concentration of media ownership, including by taking advantage of the digital switchover.
- Community broadcasting must be explicitly recognised and promoted in law. Special licensing procedures and rules for community broadcasters, which are adapted to their specific circumstances, must be adopted so that they do not have to compete for licenses against private actors.
- Effective measures must be taken, through the necessary institutional framework, to implement the right to information law. The law must be amended to bring it into line with international standards.
- Criminal defamation must be abolished and other restrictions on freedom of expression must be reviewed to ensure that they conform to international standards.
- The allocation of official advertising must be subject to regulation in order to ensure that it is based on fair and objective criteria, rather than the editorial line of media outlets.
- The rule that journalists must be members of the Nicaragua Journalists' Association, and meet certain criteria to practise journalism must be abolished.

The seventh session of the UPR in February 2010 will be the first time that Nicaragua has been reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR process was created to allow member states to evaluate each other. All members are equal in standing within the mechanism, regardless of size or economic positioning.

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