(posted May 11, 5:45 p.m.)- The Agence France-Presse (AFP) is demanding answers from the Nicaraguan government after one of its photojournalists was deported by Sandinista authorities after being detained without explanation and held incommunicado for four days in jail.
Chilean-born photographer Héctor Retamal, 37, is currently on a flight to Costa Rica after being deported Saturday afternoon without any paperwork or written explanation from Nicaraguan authorities. The photojournalist was picked up by police on Tuesday night as he was trying to cover a meeting in Managua between President Daniel Ortega and Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki.
“We don’t know what is happening here,” AFP’s Central American director Marcelo Brusa told The Nicaragua Dispatch Saturday afternoon. “Neither the lawyers, nor AFP, nor the Chilean consulate has received any written explanation of what this is all about.”
Brusa refrained from further comment until he has a chance to speak with his photographer, who was deported after other journalists demonstrated for his release.
Brusa says Retamal, who has been based in Nicaragua for the past year, has never had any problem “that I know of” with Sandinista authorities prior to his arrest this week. The AFP director says the Chilean consul general was told verbally that Retamal had violated the presidential security perimeter around Ortega’s compound, but so far there have been no charges brought against him or written explanation to justify his arrest.
Retamal was sent back to San José, where he spent last week covering U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Central America for AFP. The photojournalist was reportedly allowed to keep all his camera gear and showed no signs of physical abuse, Brusa says.
The police have not commented on the situation.
Retamal is the second foreign journalist to get deported from Nicaragua in the past six months. Last November, Swedish photojournalist Peter Torbiornsson, who in 2010 produced a documentary exposing the Sandinistas’ links to the 1984 bombing of a press conference in La Penca, was denied entry into the country and sent to Miami.