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Sandinistas Ease Curbs on Opposition Media

January 27, 1988|RICHARD BOUDREAUX | Times Staff Writer

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — In a major step toward press freedom, the Sandinista government Tuesday authorized broadcast of a dozen radio news and commentary programs and publication of four weekly magazines, most of them controlled by political opponents.

An Interior Ministry announcement said the measure was taken to fulfill a Central American peace accord that requires complete freedom of expression. It came as the Reagan Administration argued that Congress should approve more aid to Nicaraguan guerrillas to force the Sandinistas to comply with the agreement.

The ministry denied a request for an opposition television station. But Nicaragua's three principal anti-Sandinista radio stations, Corporacion, Mundial and Catolica, were allowed to resume newscasts that were halted in 1982 when a wartime state of emergency was imposed.

New Programs

In addition, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise, a bastion of anti-government sentiment, was given radio air time for news and commentary. So were the Communist Party, which is critical of Sandinista rule, and two journalists who once worked for Sandinista newspapers.

Among the four magazines authorized is one that was published by an anti-Sandinista labor coalition before it was banned. Some of the magazines and radio newscasts are new while others will resume.

Mario Arana, general manager of Radio Mundial, called the government action "very good news." He said his station's newscast will resume this week.

"We don't expect to have an immediate political impact," he said, "but we will simply be able to tell people the truth about what is happening."

Most Nicaraguans rely on radio for their news.

Newspapers Reopened

Under the state of emergency, the government censored and then eliminated all anti-Sandinista news media. After signing the peace plan last Aug. 7, it allowed the opposition newspaper La Prensa and Radio Catolica to reopen.

But requests by some news media to reopen and by others to open for the first time were delayed, for political reasons, under a law allowing the Interior Ministry to withhold authorization of news media.

With the lifting of the state of emergency last week, however, the opposition argued that no restraints remained on Nicaragua's constitutional guarantee of free expression.

The only requests not approved by the ministry were for a radio program that would give listeners the news from that day's edition of La Prensa and for the television station, sought by the businessman's council.

Nelba Blandon, a ministry spokeswoman, said the radio program will be approved after its owners provide technical details. But she said that all television will remain under state control.

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