Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 416 | Marzo 2016



Has the government’s communication strategy worked?

This veteran national journalist shares his thoughts about the government’s communication strategy, the results and interpretations of some recent surveys and the situation of the independent media

Xavier Reyes Alba

I’d like to start by commenting on the findings of some recent surveys in Nicaragua. While I’m quite skeptical of surveys, they are tools to be considered if you want to know what people are thinking. I think they contain information worth analyzing.

We talk endlessly about the dormancy of the Nicaraguan social movement because nowadays Nicaraguans aren’t even reacting to their own problems, although we do sometimes see groups of women and children taking over a neighborhood because the water isn’t getting through or groups of seniors protesting in the streets because they can’t live on their small social security pensions… Perhaps surveys can help explain this, even though they’re only a snapshot of a moment among a particular group of people.

A dichotomy between
real life and perception

Last September 11, CID-Gallup, a Latin American polling firm, published a poll based on a national sample of 1,200 people. In his conclusions the poll analyst said: “Analyzing this study’s outcomes shows a pronounced dichotomy between perception and real life. If the data concerning real life are examined, the picture that emerges is clearly negative.”

Here’s some of the real life data he mentioned that was provided by that study: “Only a third of the families said they are better off in 2015 than in 2014. Over half the families have had someone with chikungunya or dengue fever. There’s at least one unemployed person in 40% of the homes. One person has been the victim of theft or assault in the last four months in 18% of the homes—27% in Managua. Drinking water isn’t constantly available to 44% of the homes…” These facts indeed don’t concur with the vision of a country that’s doing well.

Nonetheless, the analyst went on to say that “when it comes to perception, the majority says the country is on the right path, expects their family’s finances to improve in 2016, and believes that President Daniel Ortega always or almost always does right by the Nicaraguan population and they would like to see him reelected.”


Given this contradiction between people doing poorly in real life yet saying the country is doing well, he chose a psychological gambit, characterizing Nicaraguan society as poly-normative. He explained that poly-normativity occurs when people hold two contradictory ideas at the same time without being aware of the contradiction. He described it as “something that’s possible in societies in transition.” According to him, we Nicaraguans are experiencing a harsh reality yet at the same time living in a dream we haven’t yet awakened from… He says this contradiction could also be explained by the political opposition’s weakness and the lack of a party and leader proposing and using a different model to that of the last ten years.

A few months later, January 7-12 of this year, CID-Gallup did another survey. The conclusion this time was that the citizenry is divided in its opinion of Daniel Ortega’s government, of its benefits and its way of running the country, even of the desirability of his again being a candidate in the coming elections. The Sandinistas, some 60% of likely voters, are loyal and fully support the President’s work. The gifts of school supplies, school bonuses and food baskets reconcile his followers and one way or another minimize the unemployment problem and lack of employment sources for others. These subsidies enable people to have minimal resources to cope with their limited earnings.


The conclusions drawn by the pollster in this second survey are no longer based on psychology, but on physiology. He described Nicaraguan society as being in a homeostatic state. Homeostasis is a Greek word defined as a set of self-regulatory phenomena employed by an organism, a group or even an entire population to maintain a relatively stable internal equilibrium even when faced with external changes. A lack of such balance or stability can cause failure in the whole organism or system.

In Nicaragua’s case, part of the population thinks Ortega is the best and another part doesn’t accept him and thinks the country is on a wrong course. As in his previous analysis, the pollster says the opposition’s lack of leadership is what makes a homeostatic climate possible even though the country’s and the population’s problems—lack of jobs, low wages, an unpromising future—remain. I think the pollsters are trying to tell us something important by defining society first as poly-normative and then as homeostatic.

Homeostasis can also be defined from the psychological perspective, having to do with needs and their satisfaction. When needs aren’t met it causes internal imbalance so the subject seeks balance with behavior that enables the meeting of those needs. Perhaps we should take warning if the real life shortages in Nicaragua are leading to an analogous social state. In other words, we could be reaching a point where we feel anxious about what we need and can’t obtain, what we want and can’t achieve, and this could eventually create an agitated state…

The pollsters seem confused about whether today’s Nicaraguan population is in a state of tranquility and bonanza or if, on the contrary, society is building up energy that could explode at any moment, whether in social protest or in a voting booth. According to the pollsters, the “güegüense phenomenon” is also looming in society. El Güegüense is a 16th-century satirical play in which the protagonist, an indigenous interlocutor with the colonial rulers, uses linguistic deception to confuse his opponents; the phenomenon was coined during the 1990 elections, when public opinion polls were widely used in Nicaragua for the first time and proved to be way off the mark in predicting the election outcome.

Opinions related to the media

Let’s turn now to other, equally interesting, aspects of the survey related to opinions of the country’s media contents. Four out of every ten citizens say they don’t see news in the media that they relate to, and the ratio is even higher in rural areas. While only two of every ten consider society to be seriously violent, 35% of all women polled—29% in Managua—consider the violence serious. Interestingly, those who are interested in political issues and those who aren’t both show up as major groups in the survey.
At virtually the same time as CID-Gallup presented its January poll, M&R, a national polling firm, presented its own latest survey. When people were asked what they wanted for themselves and their own, 43% said they wanted “to live in peace” while, interestingly, 24% said “to speak freely.”

Is self-censorship the price of peace?

This survey investigated how people react when a group they are in starts talking politics: 41.7% said they leave. Something is happening if we want to “live in peace” and “talk freely,” but four out of every ten withdraw from the group when someone starts talking about political issues. Another 41.4% said they only listen, without expressing their opinion or entering the discussion. Only 15.2% actually participate. Among those who identify themselves as Sandinistas, 60% are likely to get into a political discussion, although not all: even 36% of them withdraw, compared to 43% of non-Sandinistas, with independents withdrawing the most: 46%. When asked why they withdraw or only listen when the conversation turns to politics, 9% said it is out of fear and 77% said that politics is synonymous with fighting and talking politics only leads to enmity among people. Is this self-censorship, an expression of a model that has imposed the belief that talking about politics can get us in trouble?

Another fact related to this conclusion is that 97% of those interviewed think dialogue is the right way to resolve differences between government and citizens and between different groups in society. But if we don’t enter into discussion, only listen or withdraw from the debate, how can we resolve problems? Some 42% of Nicaraguans said democracy is fine as it is today, but 54.6% expressed some degree of dissatisfaction, saying it lacks “something.”

All this tells us the population is facing a dilemma of preserving the peace they say they want—or say they have—and avoiding upsetting the balance vs. censoring themselves, not talking freely. If 97% of the people want dialogue and the majority wants to live in peace, we see a contradiction at least closely linked to the media system and the model of society and social coexistence the government and its party have promoted since 2007.

Are these outcomes and contradictions actually the result of the government’s communication policy? Has that policy limited the citizenry to self-censorship, to not even wanting to talk about politics much less participate in a debate? Or have we come to appreciate peace so much that we don’t want to lose it again after 40 years of dictatorship, two wars (that of liberation in 1978-79 and the civil war of the 1980s, both with tens of thousands of deaths), then a pacification process the following decade that wasn’t very peaceful? Or might it be that we in the media aren’t doing our job of fostering dialogue, discussion and debate?

Making power accountable

Martin Baron has been The Washington Post’s executive editor since 2013. As editor of The Boston Globe in 2002, he sent a team of journalists out to investigate allegations of sexual abuse committed or covered up by Catholic clergy in Boston. The investigative journalism that blew the lid off that massive scandal and earned the Globe a Pulitzer Prize is chronicled in the film Spotlight, winner of this year’s Oscar for best picture. In a recent interview with the Spanish daily newspaper El País, Baron was asked what he believed the task of the media should be. He replied: to be the watchdogs of society, the watchdogs of power. He said that journalism should make power accountable. Are we in the Nicaraguan media fulfilling this role?

This government has clearly understood that it can’t let the media take on the role of social accountants, so it has set in motion policies to prevent this monitoring work. The government’s perspective is that playing that role could encourage the social movement and even trigger subversion. Consequently, the government’s communication policy has been to prevent the media from taking command of the national agenda and organizing any debate in society.

The government’s communication strategy

To answer the question about whether the government’s communication policy has been successful or not in controlling the media and society by limiting debate, we must review its communication strategy since 2007. Right at the beginning of President Ortega’s second term in office, his wife, Rosario Murillo, who was promptly designated communication and citizenship minister, released the communication strategy.

Let’s summarize its essential elements. The first objective was: “The public is the heart and the protagonist of our project.” The document says, “The results of this communication strategy remind us, as promoters and activists, that it is a genuine revolution in peace, a truly democratic revolution because justice, power and wellbeing will have been given back to the citizenry through the exercise of direct democracy.” The strategy’s author explains that “this is nothing other than changing the structures of power in Nicaragua.”

We must ask ourselves if they are indeed changing, and if so into what…

A third point in the document defines the goal of official communication: “To discuss the issues we want discussed.” This implies a policy of censorship and minimizing the power of the media, and explains one of the things that has led society to its self-censorship. From the beginning, the Sandinista leadership established the goal of dominating the field of discussing ideas and daily events, ensuring that society would revolve around its agenda. The government proposed that it rather than the media would monopolize the agenda, which also implied a warning to the media and to independent journalists who opposed this monopoly.

Monopolizing the agenda

Yet another objective of the strategy was “to develop a calendar of all important activities and program the handling of their communication.” In other words they proposed to micro-administer the government’s agenda and image, and have fully complied with that. The government has never left any date on the calendar to chance, not even patron saint festivals.

The strategy also proposed to “develop a weekly program in which government leaders would interact with sectors of the public because creating an all-purpose work and communication style is imperative.” We’ve seen that all-purpose character of the FSLN activists, who go wherever they are sent without questioning anything.

One thing that never took off, however, was a proposed weekly program to be called “People President.” It would have apparently been similar to the 1980’s “Face the people,” when President Ortega held weekly meetings broadcasted on radio and television with diverse sectors in different parts of the country to respond to the concerns of the people who attended. Since his ministers appeared with him, he ordered them—right there and then—to find a solution to the problems the people brought to him.

It has to be acknowledged that Daniel Ortega was very active in those years but today he is totally inactive; he has no contact with the public. Nicaragua may hold the world record for a President who hasn’t had a single press conference or interview with the national press in ten years. He has given interviews to David Frost, to the Al Jazeera network and to Russian television, but not a single one to the national press, not even to the journalists who work for the “citizen’s power media.”

The First Lady’s news broadcasts

Another point in the 2007 strategy was to have “a single image and graphic design,” which has been fully met by establishing a new identity and image for the FSLN. Yet another point in that text was the “Communication of achievements,” an objective personally assumed by the First lady, who has a kind of daily news program, broadcast on the radio and television stations linked to the government.

For some time now a part of this news program’s agenda has included catastrophic issues: epidemics, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes…perhaps in order to foster the image of the protective State that warns us of what might happen and teaches us that we must follow its guidelines. Every time there’s so much as a tremor, the voice of the First Lady is heard explaining its intensity and what we must expect or do so as not to be victims of Nature.

Consolidating the government’s media system

In order to turn its communication strategy into reality, the government needed powerful media on its side to form its own media system. When Daniel Ortega took office he only had two media, TV Channel 4 and Radio Ya. First he strengthened them and then he began to buy up local and national media, using his control over TELCOR [Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Mail] to issue radio and television frequencies as he pleased. He bought two more national TV channels, 8 and 13, which are now directed by the presidential family’s children, and reinforced the State’s Channel 6. Meanwhile, Ángel González, an important business partner of the government, obtained licenses to operate channels 7, 9, 10 and 11. The competition for audience by these two blocs is so intense that President Ortega’s acts and speeches are no longer broadcast live during prime time.

Power and capital equivalent to González’s or the FSLN’s would be required to compete with these two national TV blocs. Other channels, such as 12, 14, 100% Noticias and CDNN, however, at least still survive. In 2015, Ángel González finally bought Channel 2, the doyen of national television, which gave up its more balanced news agenda and other programming to join the government’s ranks.

The written word

At first, the government tried having a nationwide weekly newspaper, El 19, but it didn’t please the regime so they turned it into an Internet news portal. Then in 2014 El Nuevo Diario was sucked into the official orbit, the first case of a national medium becoming victim to cutbacks in government publicity, although we must acknowledge that a medium’s crisis isn’t always because it doesn’t get government publicity; this newspaper already had administrative and financial problems.

As we know, the written media are maintained by private advertising, government publicity and street sales. As of 2008, the government stopped giving El Nuevo Diario any of its publicity. Yielding to a severe financial crisis, the entrepreneur Ramiro Ortiz bought this newspaper in 2014 and changed its editorial line, which now consists of not confronting the government and prioritizing successful economic issues.

I believe that since it relinquished its role of monitoring power, El Nuevo Diario’s street sales can’t be very good and that the capital and companies of Ramiro Ortiz, one of Central America’s most powerful businessmen, is taking up the slack. Of course, the government publicity it now receives again also offsets its costs. By relinquishing its role as the watchdog of power and with the editorial turnaround in 2014, El Nuevo Diario no longer competed with La Prensa, something both newspapers maintained for years by offering the public the best information and steadfastly monitoring the government.

For many years La Prensa was considered the newspaper that represented the country’s rightwing democratic thought, supporting Liberal governments for 16 years. Nowadays there’s a political distancing between them as they haven’t been able to find a winning alternative, which they unsuccessfully tried to assign to the Independent Liberal Party (PLI). La Prensa’s current line is clearly anti-government and this has sometimes even led it to confront government-allied big capital and its spokesmen, particularly José Adán Aguerri, president of COSEP, the umbrella organization representing big private capital.

Following the money
for government publicity

Obtaining public information in Nicaragua is very difficult now, sometimes impossible. The government’s control policy is micro-localized to the extent that spokespeople for local government institutions must first consult Managua before saying anything. A 2015 presidential directive to all government officials ordered that any data given to the media must first be authorized by the FSLN Secretariat.

As the national budget is a tool of public information about public resource allocation, I looked there for the finance budget for the government media since we all know that the government’s TV channels receive a lot of government publicity. But the data aren’t clear.

Researching in the Ministry of Finance, I found that the presidency has no resources for government publicity, although I did find C$140 million (US$5 million) in the presidency’s budget for “incidental expenses.” Is that perhaps where the resources come from to maintain the government’s media system and possibly even all those huge billboards with the photo of the President or the governing couple that are dotted all over the country? Yet its budget for the purchase of magazines, books and newspapers is less than that assigned to the Education Ministry for the same purpose.

I did find that the two largest ministries, health and education, have millions of córdobas for awareness campaigns and to promote their services. The problem there is that we don’t know how they contract the posters and radio and TV spots. No independent companies or media have been invited to bid for government publicity contracts in recent years.

Television and radio

I then went to the TELCOR webpage to see if I could find data about the authorized broadcast media but the information there was outdated. In some cases the most recent is from 2012. I did find that 14 TV channels were broadcasting in 2007 while today there are 21 and all those 7 new frequencies were granted to companies linked to the governing party and its allies. Cable or subscription TV companies rose from 64 to 67 between 2001 and 2006, and by 2012 there were 83, some linked to Sandinista capital. Cable television is significant because it has the greatest audience out in the provinces.

The government is armor-plated in radio. In 2001 there were 68 AM radio stations, but by 2007, the year President Enrique Bolaños turned the office over to Ortega, there were 18 fewer, one of which, La Poderosa, was closed by government order in 2002, allegedly for failure to meet legal and tax obligations. In 2012, a slight rise to 52 stations was recorded.

Most people traditionally listened to AM radio. It was the waveband of news, radio soaps and opinion programs. Why hasn’t AM grown? First, many stations went over to FM due to lower maintenance costs. Second, the majority of young people in Nicaragua listen to FM because it mostly offers music and entertainment. According to TELCOR’s data, there were 110 FM stations on in 2001 and 93 more by 2009, but the fact that no new licenses have been granted since 2007—given that the new Telecommunications Law hasn’t been approved—makes us think these new frequencies have been given to people linked to the government.

The radio media have been decimated

In recent years some independent radio stations have had to reduce the range of their broadcasting signal due to electricity costs, leaving them fewer resources for maintenance. Most AM stations with slots for grassroots participation, phone calls and live interviews no longer have national coverage. With less coverage they obviously lose audience and competitiveness in a vicious circle in which the inequality is pulverizing the independent media.

This deterioration has caused not only spending and investments cuts but also staff cutbacks and greater reliance on private advertisers, some of which also impose conditions. Announcements and patronage aren’t always disinterested, although it’s worse in the case of the government. In these circumstances it’s hard to maintain an informative and critical editorial line that monitors the government.

Investigative journalism

Investigative journalism has suffered enormously in the last decade, especially in television and radio. Under the financial limitations mentioned above, how can independent reporters focus on one issue for a week? Only the media that obtain substantial advertising and foreign funding have any possibility of doing in-depth journalism.

It’s clear that journalists investigating social problems are the last thing the government and big business want. For example, every time they write about the sugar cane workers with chronic kidney disease, it reactivates the protest groups, so the powers that be obviously don’t want issues such as this mentioned. And if a Bernie Sanders were to pop up in Nicaragua saying we have to break the power of the banks and their interest rates, he would be sidelined just like they’re going to do to him in the United States.

But these pressures don’t justify the media not doing its job of providing in-depth information, educating and building awareness. We have to recognize our debt to society and must thoroughly review our role. If we have fewer resources than we need or once had, we still must invest them in really doing our job of being power’s watchdogs.

If it bleeds, it leads... more than ever

In the government media, especially television, news about blood and violence, deaths, injuries, accidents, family and neighborhood fights has taken hold as an “alternative” to substantive reporting and monitoring. The screen is saturated with pools of blood from those who’ve been injured in an accident and with the tormented faces of those affected by it or with images of a poor neighborhood where two women are pulling out each other’s hair in a neighborhood fight…

Glorifying such journalism has reached the point where Channel 8 has an hour long program every Wednesday with the “stars” of Radio Ya’s blood-soaked news items. The less educated strata of society are today caught up by programs saturated with this type of news. Both the pro-government channels and those belonging to Ángel González’s group have invested heavily in such “red” journalism, focusing their daily competition on channels 10 and 8 with crude news items in which the victims are disparaged and even illegally exhibited to the general public. Unfortunately, this policy has been successful in controlling the prime slots of 6 to 7am, midday and 6 to 7pm, when families are gathered around the television. Media surveys keep telling us that most of the audience is caught up by two or three TV news programs where such gross and vacuous journalism is the dish of the day.

Opting for distraction

Why do the government channels opt for this type of journalism? It’s hard to understand, when the government propaganda never tires of telling us that we are “the safest country in the world” and that the government itself is promoting “family values.”
And when the government channels aren’t transmitting this excuse for news, they opt for soap operas, entertainment and distraction. Admittedly television started out as an entertainment media but it’s suspicious when distraction of the most banal sort is a government’s only goal.

On channels 8 and 10, those with the greatest audience, social demands hardly make the agenda: lack of water, the price of electricity, the cost of living… Democracy and civil rights issues have the least opportunity of being aired. Moreover audience is synonymous with advertising. Along with the scandal and the soap operas have emerged brash promotions of hard cash: Call now and we’ll give you C$5,000 córdobas (about US$180)!

Open mike programs are a threat

Competition for audience and the advertising pie has annihilated discussion programs. Only a few television programs today discuss the country’s political and social issues. There are more openings on radio, but fewer than before and certainly not enough. If the government’s policy has been to discourage critical thinking in the media, the first casualty has been debate. Open mike programs have disappeared even on the government media because programs with calls from the public are very powerful in raising awareness.

A week ago I heard a program on La Primerísima radio station in which a lady said that two schoolchildren, in uniform and with their backpacks, boarded a bus to go to school, but as the fare card they carried only had C$2.50 on it—the price of one fare—the bus driver made one of the children get off the bus. Is it right or wrong to discuss this on the radio? And what do you feel when you hear something like this? The first reaction is annoyance, which is then internalized and becomes awareness of the abuse. Raising awareness is what the government most fears awakening today.

The logic and objectives of government communication have killed diversity in the news program agendas and voices. The presidential communications minister sets the daily agenda with diverse issues ranging from an emergency caused by volcanoes and epidemics of dengue and zika to the distribution of government handouts, with little in between. And that voice is the one that’s heard every day, in a simultaneous hook-up with all the government or governing party radio stations and all the “citizen power” channels. Just one voice sets the guidelines of what has to be known.

The 2016 Communication Strategy

The government has now defined a new communication strategy for 2016, officially known as “The Year of Good Hope,” designed to “represent the interest, concerns and worries of the families and communities throughout Nicaragua.” This strategy document ends by stating: “Our communication must recognize and identify us as we are: a people that celebrates; a people filled with vitality, color, seasonal aromas, festivities, traditions, splendid foods, languages and cultures; a cheerful people, hopeful, full of fervor and faith.” We’ve seen this goal constantly being complied with: every weekend there are food fairs and parties for the young, and government offices are always present to make propaganda at the patron saint festivals. This “communication” is coherent but it’s losing effectiveness because society’s problems are increasing while debate is being kept on a tight rein.

This new strategy also proposes “young people’s special role in all fields of knowledge, technology, education, communication, culture, sports, Nicaragua’s four loves and work must be present in our daily communication.” Government plans, especially those of the mayor of Managua, have prioritized meeting some of young people’s expectations, such as offering free Wi-Fi connections in parks in Managua and other cities. It’s very good for people to be more interconnected, and even better if the government pays for it, but this project isn’t guileless and doesn’t only seek to create an interconnected country for free. Surely the government would rather have young people connected up in a park than getting involved in some social protest…

The Internet in Nicaragua

In fact, let’s talk a little about Internet communication. For many people it’s the alternative space we can and should use to generate debate, awareness, opinion and critical thought. Nicaragua is still the Central American Cinderella in this regard. According to TELCOR’s outdated information, 23% of the population had Internet access in 2007 and by 2012 the percentage had only grown to 29%. In 2013 207,275 connections were accessing Internet. Teledensity was 3.4 lines for every 100 people. In developed countries, it’s more than 50 lines per 100 inhabitants and specifically in Sweden it’s almost 70.

That’s the most recent official data about Internet growth, but according to Rodrigo Peñalba, an expert in digital communication, things have changed a lot since then. Nicaragua now has 1.5 million Facebook users, 103,000 fixed broadband connections, 1 million Nicaraguans overseas connected and more than 6 million cellphone lines, which have been growing exponentially since 2012. There are 6,808,930 cellphones in Nicaragua today but only 396 are postpaid, which means that most people buy a few minutes at a time to talk or text but not enough to spend time surfing the net. Some of those people could be using their cellphone to connect with social networks but the overwhelming majority use them to communicate with their families. Most aren’t permanently connected.

Social networks

The social networks have already shown their ability to mobilize and inform and, although we have important examples of the effectiveness of using them to keep citizens on alert, I believe that in Nicaragua the use of social networks to exchange information, debate, raise awareness and mobilize is still in diapers. Additionally, although more people have Internet access through smart phones every day, the numbers are still very low.

It would be an achievement if the government were to listen to what appears on the social networks, where an active youth movement is already constantly contributing, from reporting on an empty lot turned into a garbage dump to discussing more substantive political issues. But as journalist Bill Gentile from the American University said when he was here, Facebook is also full of a lot of nonsense.

We can’t expect Facebook, Twitter and the other social networks to be used only to inform or denounce but we could make better use of them by creating groups debating certain issues. One problem with that is admittedly that we Nicaraguans usually dismiss people before listening to them and sometimes freely criticize causes we don’t know even know anything about. We’ll have taken a big step the day we realize that a versatile media like the social networks can respond to very small or moderately large problems. I think we’ve still got a long way to go to reach that day.

The initiative must come from civil society

How much of the information we look for on the Internet raises awareness? I think it would be a vital contribution if we were to have somewhere that people could get information, draw conclusions and participate in a discussion. But this is precisely what the government would like to prevent. Although I don’t have the data, the government has reportedly built an enormous number of networks and walls on Facebook for its people and it doesn’t want another agenda circulating on the Internet that informs and raises awareness in young people.

How can we use the social networks to build a different and serious information alternative? The private sector doesn’t appear very willing to invest in this kind of alternative and I don’t see the universities willing to build alternative media on the Internet either. I think the initiative must come from society’s organizations. I think that’s where enough motivation and even resources can be found to build an information and opinion-creating alternative the committed public can access without fear. They should build platforms everyone can access to find information and even more importantly debate, not just entering to read and leave.

We need to offer young people communication that’s novel, diverse in content and in an attractive language. The current media can’t do it. They’re busy defending their positions and the place they now have, avoiding getting dragged under by the competition, losing their audience and influence. They’re extending their own offerings on the Internet, but not building anything different. Perhaps the independent civil society organizations are the only tool that can meet the challenge of building this alternative communication.

Trying to control the Internet is a mistake

Where would an alternative media be created if not from within society? Should we spend millions of córdobas reconstructing the traditional media that are now decimated because they never get government publicity or have lost quality? Or should we go to the more liberated world of the Internet, which can’t be censured no matter how much someone may want to? If the government decided to control the Internet it would be a mistake because it would get into a major conflict of interests. Although the temptation is there to do so, if President Ortega respects anything today it’s the laws of the market.

The Internet is a future challenge because the surveystell us that about 90% of the population still gets its information from television and not the Internet. However, the challenge of having an agenda and a media system to counteract official communication is one that will eventually be taken up.

Three reflections in conclusion

One: something is happening in our society that’s causing it to censor itself, shy away from political debates, refuse to listen to anything other than shallow journalism, and be disinterested in political information.
Two: the government’s communication policy has worked in some fields, especially in isolating the less educated sectors from the debate on large national issues. The government’s million-dollar investments in television and radio stations so as to present programming disassociated from political debate and civil rights has worked. Its media is aligned with a single agenda and has managed to capture much of the audience.

Three: so far, the policy of underminng the independent media has also worked, resulting in the weakening of radio stations and the extinction of open mike radio news programs where people express themselves, and of programs led by independent journalists.

These are some of the results of the subjection of independent media to constant financial asphyxiation for ten years. Meanwhile, private enterprise still hasn’t grasped that society needs a balanced media even though a group of journalists has been talking to them. This balance won’t be achieved as long as business’ only criteria are profitability and gaining the most audience to maximize the effect of their advertising. If private enterprise doesn’t understand that it has to support media balance in the country, five more years of a policy like the current one could break down and sink independent communication.

In the end, however, the major objective of the government’s communication strategy has been to promote having just one party and one way of thinking and in this it hasn’t been successful so far. It hasn’t succeeded in creating a single-party State although the parties that do exist are in very bad shape. I can assure you that in a society like Nicaragua’s it’ll be impossible to impose just one way of thinking.

As Fidel Castro said in Nicaragua on the first anniversary of the revolution, people get tired and, like volcanoes, explode. While history can be cyclical, each cycle manifests itself differently. What doesn’t change is that people get tired and one day say: “Enough!” Let’s hope that when that day comes back around it’ll be with a voting pencil and not a gun.

Xavier Reyes Alba is the director of the Internet news page “Trinchera de La Noticia” and of the radio program “60 Minutes with Xavier Reyes.”

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