Police storm TV station in Nicaragua and arrest owner for instigating hate

On this day: March 7
1986: The sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" airs its final episode after eight seasons. The series, which starred Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as two black boys from Harlem adopted by a rich white businessman named Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato) for whom their late mother previously worked. The show was a ratings success for several seasons, but was canceled after several seasons of sagging ratings.

Nicaraguan police shut down operations at a major TV network and arrested the owner, accusing him of instigating hate and violence in the country, officials said.

Law enforcement raided the headquarters of 100% Noticias in Nicaragua’s capital of Managua late Friday night and took several people in custody, including the broadcaster’s owner and director, Miguel Mora, and news director Lucia Pineda, colleagues said.

Mora appeared in court Saturday morning where he was formally accused of “fostering and instigating hate and violence” in the country, according to an attorney with the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights representing Mora.

Pineda’s whereabouts remain unknown, her colleagues told CNN.

“I demand his (physical) integrity and his release from custody because he’s innocent,” Mora’s wife Veronica Chavez, who is also a journalist, told reporters Saturday.

The Nicaraguan broadcaster is one of the few independent news networks in the country. Its journalists have continuously covered the country’s political turmoil since waves of anti-government protests and crackdowns erupted in April and hundreds of people were killed.

“We are going to continue working because we are not committing any crimes,” Chavez added. “We are journalists and it’s our constitutional right, we are not criminals, we are not murderers, we are reporting what’s happening.”

‘They want to get in’

As police stormed the building late Friday night, the network was forced off the air and Pineda launched a Facebook Live broadcast, describing the scene inside the building and asking for help.

“They (police) want to take 100% Noticias. There are riot police officers inside the station. They want to take our director Miguel Mora with them,” Pineda said. “We can hear them from the second floor; they want to get in.”

“This is an emergency, they (police) want to arrest our director for no reason.”

Pineda’s pleas lasted for about 3 minutes before the broadcast went silent.

Footage from a security camera provided by 100% Noticias from inside the TV station shows two law enforcement officers in Mora’s office Friday night. The security cameras have been disabled since then, according to the station’s staff members.

Just before the crackdown, Nicaragua’s telecommunications regulator, TELCOR, had announced that 100% Noticias was no longer authorized to operate in the country.

Leticia Gaitán, a network anchor, said there were police checkpoints feet away from the station in the weeks leading to the raid and Mora and Pineda, who feared for their safety, had been refugees in the building.

“We denounced the repression that the government exercised against the people,” Gaitán said. “It hurts them seeing that we are the voice of the people.”

Anti-government protests in Nicaragua began last spring with people frustrated over the government’s response to a devastating wildfire in an area of protected tropical rain forest. Unrest spread and tensions worsened after a government decision in April to change the country’s social security system.

In the four months immediately following the protests, more than 300 people were killed, thousands injured and hundreds detained, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The official government death toll during the same period is 198.

In August, the government of President Daniel Ortega expelled IACHR after it published a report accusing the government of human rights violations.

The raid at 100% Noticias comes days after the government suspended two human rights groups.

In a statement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Denis Moncada said the organizations broke protocols and created a platform of “false information to promote international sanctions against our country,” state-run news Digital 19 reported.