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Newspaper, Radio Closed By Government Prepare Reopening

September 30, 1987

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Workmen on Wednesday greased the presses, swept up shredded newsprint and geared up for Thursday’s publication of La Prensa, the opposition newspaper closed 15 months ago by the Sandinista government.

Radio Catolica, the voice of the Roman Catholic Church silenced since Jan. 1, 1986, also made last minute preparations to be back on the air Friday, a day later than planned. Secretary Zoila Macias said the extra day was needed to get the equipment back in operation.

In the past two weeks, the leftist Sandinista government granted permission for the paper and the radio station to reopen as part of its compliance with a new Central American peace plan.

That initiative aims to end armed conflicts in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. It calls for cease-fires, amnesties, and democratic reforms, including freedom of the press and assembly. Other provisions include an end to outside aid to insurgencies and to the use of one country by rebels from another.

La Prensa, a 62-year-old afternoon newspaper, was closed by the government June 26, 1986, a day after the U.S. Congress approved $100 million in aid for the Contra rebels fighting the Sandinistas. The government repeatedly alleged the paper was linked to the CIA.

The church radio, also a strongest critic of the government, was shut down 20 months ago for failing to broadcast the end-of-the-year message by President Daniel Ortega.

At least 22 radio news shows have been forced off the air since 1982 when the Contra raids heated up and the government responded with a state of emergency. The Sandinistas assigned a permanent censor to the La Prensa offices in an industrial area of Managua.

Violeta Chamorro, the publisher of La Prensa, told journalists Wednesday the newspaper would publish without censorship, part of the agreement made with Ortega to print again.

″If the government doesn’t like it, they’ll close it,″ she said.

Mrs. Chamorro, 57, said only about 120 of the 230 employees were back at work. Six to eight reporters were seeking scoops for the first editions.

A group of young men cleaned up torn newsprint from the concrete floor of the press room. Nearby, huge rolls of paper marked in English: ″Made In U.S.S.R.,″ sat ready to be put on the presses for the 200,000 copies to be printed Thursday.

There was a flurry of activity behind the white concrete walls, which were smeared with an anti-La Prensa slogan in red paint: ″Get out traitors″ and the scrawled letters, ″FSLN,″ standing for the ruling National Sandinista Liberation Front.

Jaime Chamorro, the general manager and brother of the slain publisher Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, returned to Nicaragua on Tuesday night and said he was ″very optimistic″ about getting get back to work. He left in May 1986 for health reasons and lived in Cota Rica.

The Rev. Bismarck Carballo met with staffers of Radio Catolica to discuss future programming.

″We’re doing all we can to get ready,″ the priest said.

Carballo was barred in June 1986 from coming back into the country. The government rescinded its decision and granted re-entry to Carballo and two other clergymen in early September.

The Sandinistas said the move to allow the clergymen back also was in line with the peace agreements signed by the presidents of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

Ramiro Gurdian, on the board of the private enterprise organization known as Cosep, said the members were awaiting word from the government on written permission to open a television station. The government runs the country’s only two stations.

″We’ll see,″ Gurdian said in an interview. ″That’s all we can do: wait and see if we again get our freedom.″

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