Sources close to the Catholic Church in Nicaragua are accusing the media in the country of a lack of neutrality. News reports about the grave crisis the country has been going through in recent months should be treated with caution. This applies especially in regard to the stories being posted on social media, many of which are false – for example the fake news spread last week about the murder of Bishop Abelardo Mata of the diocese of Estelí.
“The war that we are currently living through in our country is also a media war, where the major part of this conflict is being played out”, the same source, which prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). At the same time they complained that “the lies, the confusion, the obscurantism that we are facing right now are almost as dangerous as the bullets being fired, because they are creating a psychosis of war, a psychosis of fear”.
A lack of impartiality is to be found on both sides of the conflict in the Central American country. “The state media don’t report when there has been a police or paramilitary shooting, and if they do they blame it on the Maras”, (organised criminal gangs). Media that oppose the Government invent unfounded rumours. “They don’t report it police or people aligned with the regime are killed, or if the offices of the local Town Hall are set on fire.” An example of this was “the killing of three peasant farmers last Sunday for being closely linked to the Sandinista front. But this news was ignored by media not belonging to the Sandinista front”.
Again, according to the source, one of the most serious concerns is the radicalisation of both sides that has taken place since the conflict began on 18 April this year, when a call went out to people on the social networks to protest against the reforms of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute, which included an increase in taxes paid by Nicaragua workers and at the same time cuts in pensions and social security payments. The confrontations erupted when supporters of President Daniel Ortega also came out on the streets in support of the reforms. Since then the repression and violence by pro-government paramilitary forces against the protesters has grown worse.
“It is important to remember that 30 years ago there was a civil war in Nicaragua. Now the wounds have reopened, and indeed even deepened. It is hatred.” For this reason, the most urgent thing at the present time is to establish “a process of reconciliation. The true apostles are those who speak of pardon, pardon, pardon”.
For his part Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the international president of ACN, has responded to the call by the Nicaraguan bishops in their last communiqué on 14 July and re-emphasised the importance of the prayer campaigns for Nicaragua that have been initiated in various different countries by the pontifical foundation ACN. “In difficult times, such as the one Nicaragua is living through at the moment, the people see the Church as a great source of moral support. For this reason it is essential to support the Church in its difficult task. The central mission of ACN is to combine its pastoral aid programme with information, in order to draw the attention of the entire Christian community and indeed the whole world to this painful and violent crisis. For prayer is the motor and driving force of all change”, Cardinal Piacenza added.