Nicaraguan journalist and former political prisoner Lucia Pineda Ubau was selected as one of the five winners of the 2019 Courage in Journalism Award, a recognition given by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to brave women who report “on taboo topics, work in environments hostile to women and share difficult truths.”
Lucia remained in prison for more than six months accused by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo of “inciting hate,” due to her relentless reporting on the massacre committed by the regime as of April 2018. The journalist was released on June 11, 2019, but her imprisonment represents the criminalization of journalism in Nicaragua.
The journalist, who is now in Costa Rica and is also of Costa Rican nationality, dedicated this award to God, her “greatest consolation” during the days of confinement, emphasized that “I was not looking for any award, we just wanted to inform”. She demanded that the Nicaraguan regime to return the facilities of channel “100% Noticias” and all media outlets that have been confiscated.
When notified about the recognition Pineda warned, “without freedom of the press there is no democracy. Dictatorships pass away and we journalists remain,” afterwards she urged the independent press in Nicaragua to continue resisting before the abuses of power.
The nomination of the Nicaraguan journalist was presented by the Poets, Writers and Novelists Association (PEN International, Chapter Nicaragua), when Pineda was still in prison. Author and PEN’s Nicaragua president, Gioconda Belli, announced the results and said that this award is an opportunity to “call attention to the persecution” suffered by Nicaraguan journalism.
Belli stressed that in Nicaragua there is no respect for press freedom and she recalled that journalist Angel Gahona “paid with his life the right to inform.” She also emphasized that dozens of Nicaraguan journalists have had to go into exile to preserve their integrity, but that they continue to inform Nicaraguan society.
The main arguments of PEN Nicaragua to nominate Lucia Pineda were “her professional career, her work in the last year under conditions of brutal repression and her condition as a political prisoner of the government of Nicaragua,” explained journalist Gabriela Selser.
Cristiana Chamorro, director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, said that the recognition for Lucia Pineda shows that “in Nicaragua there is a great repression, but that there is a courageous and coherent journalism bringing the truth to Nicaraguans” although in a hostile environment.
Chamorro emphasized that despite the release of the journalists, Nicaraguan society does not enjoy full freedom and explained that the challenge remains the same “to get rid of the dictatorship, rescue Nicaragua and turn it into a true republic” where everyone can express themselves freely.
The award ceremony will be held next October in Washington D.C. The International Women’s Media Foundation defines the winners as women “committed to press freedom and extraordinary strength of character,” who have been able to overcome unfair conditions “to become leaders in their industry.”
Journalist and former political prisoner Miguel Mora (released the same day) underscored that “bravery” is one of the main characteristics of Lucia Pineda. He also recalled that during the arbitrary raid at 100% Noticias, on December 21, 2018, Pineda kept reporting until the last moment.
Lucia Pineda will be awarded along with journalists Anna Babinets and Nastya Stanko of the Ukraine; Anna Nimiriano from South Sudan; and the British Liz Sly, chief of the Washington Post Bureau in Beirut.
The Courage in Journalism Award has been given in previous years to journalists like the Colombian Jineth Bedoya Lima, who in 2009 created the campaign “It’s no time to be quiet” to fight violence against women in her country, as well as the Kurdish journalist and plastic artist Zehra Dogan, imprisoned in 2018 under charges of making “terrorist propaganda.”
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