‘Not even Orwell could have dreamed up a country like this’: Journalists flee Nicaragua

On Father’s Day last year, Octavio Enríquez shared pizza and soda with his two children. Then he told them he was leaving.

A Nicaraguan journalist known for rigorous investigations, his latest reporting had led him dangerously close to President Daniel Ortega, a former leftist revolutionary who ruled his nation — one of the poorest and most corrupt in the Western Hemisphere — with little mercy.

Enríquez, 42, was preparing a series of stories that exposed Ortega’s links to nearly two dozen businesses that had received millions of dollars in government contracts. But the reporter worried he would be jailed before he could publish.

“Never be ashamed of your father,” Enríquez said as he hugged his children and headed under cover of darkness for a border crossing. “I’m on the right side of history.”

After violently suppressing democratic protests in 2018, Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have tightened their grip on power, imprisoning political opponents, business leaders and members of civil society and attacking freedom of expression from all sides.

They raided newsrooms, jailed journalists and ordered dozens of news outlets to close. They pushed a series of laws that made it a crime to spread “fake” news and publish information not authorized by the government — and even banned newspapers from importing paper and ink.

The offices of Confidencial, the online newsmagazine where Enríquez worked, had been occupied by police forces and its publisher was facing money laundering charges dismissed by human rights advocates as “absurd.”

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