January 21, 2019 / 5:15 AM / 4 months ago

Nicaraguan journalist flees to Costa Rica, fearing government threats

Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, critic of the government of President Daniel Ortega speaks during an interview with Reuters in Managua, Nicaragua December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas/File Photo

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - One of Nicaragua’s most influential political watchdog reporters said on Sunday he has gone into exile in Costa Rica after receiving threats from the government, which has led a heavy-handed crackdown on protests against President Daniel Ortega.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro had accused the government of using increasingly authoritarian tactics to purge Nicaragua of dissent.

The famed reporter announced on his television program he had fled to Costa Rica, without detailing the threats that prompted him to leave Nicaragua. He said he planned to keep reporting from the city of San Jose, where the government has welcomed him and his wife.

He told Reuters in an interview in late December he had been targeted with death threats on social media and feared the government could trump up charges as an excuse to throw him in jail. Chamorro said police had raided his offices earlier in December and taken his equipment, forcing him to work almost in hiding.

Nicaragua’s government did not respond to a request for comment. It has repeatedly said freedom of expression exists in the country.

Chamorro, the son of former President Violeta Chamorro and a frequent critic of Ortega, runs the digital newspaper Confidencial and hosts television news programs.

His father, slain journalist and businessman Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, opposed right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza in the late 1970s while at the helm of La Prensa newspaper. The younger Chamorro won an award from the Columbia Journalism School in 2010 for his watchdog coverage of Nicaragua.

Beginning in April, Nicaragua has experienced one of its worst crises since a 1980s civil war, with protests raging for months before being stifled by the government.

More than 300 people were killed in the protests and more than 500 were incarcerated, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights. Dozens of journalists have been beaten and threatened, human rights groups say.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Paul Tait

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