The iconic Blank Front Page of LA PRENSA newspaper, which creatively denounced the censorship by Daniel Ortega’s regime on January 18, 2019, will be on display at the National Press Club, a prestigious organization for journalists and media in Washington, D.C.
Juan Lorenzo Holmann, the general manager of LA PRENSA, who spent 545 days in prison for his refusal to cease practicing critical journalism, presented at the National Press Club the motivations behind the newspaper’s decision to publish an edition with a blank front page.
Holmann stated that it is “a blank page that speaks volumes,” as it not only represents the censorship of LA PRENSA but also of journalism in Nicaragua.
“It is definitely an honor, but also a recognition of our work throughout the entire existence of LA PRENSA. Moreover, I believe the most important aspect is that it draws attention to what is happening to us, something that could happen to anyone anywhere in the world. It underscores the importance for citizens to be informed and the harm caused by the lack of truthful information,” expressed Holmann.
Among the front pages of the most important newspapers in the United States
The Blank Front Page of LA PRENSA will be featured in a gallery alongside the most significant covers from the leading print media outlets in the United States, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Miami Herald, among many others.
Holmann recounted that it all began after a visit to that gallery. While walking with someone else in front of impressive headlines and photos, he expressed his desire for LA PRENSA to have a space on those walls. A month later, he received a call from the National Press Club, informing him of their interest in having a cover from LA PRENSA and requesting him to bring it framed.
He specified that the arrangement was made during the previous presidency of the National Press Club, but the one who received the cover is the current president, Emily Wilkins, a journalist from CNBC.
“When I handed it over to her, she was amazed because, under no circumstances, is it normal for a newspaper to publish a blank front page; that is something probably never seen before,” he expressed.
What was going on when the Blank Front Page was published
In his presentation to the authorities of the National Press Club, Holmann recalled that between 2018 and 2020, LA PRENSA, the largest and oldest newspaper in Nicaragua, faced censorship by the Ortega regime for exposing the armed repression against civil protests and human rights violations taking place in the country.
“Our printing materials were seized by the Nicaraguan government at customs, a form of censorship. This caused a lot of anxiety, as the possibility of halting the newspaper’s production became a reality. In Nicaragua, where traditions are highly valued, the printed newspaper was not only a means of communication but also the primary source of information for the population.
“Our Marketing Manager was concerned about the situation we were facing and wanted to ensure that our readers and the world at large understood the gravity of it. The dictatorship was attempting to control the narrative and impose its version of ‘truth,’ which posed a real threat to our ability to print the newspaper. We feared the potential consequences for our society if we lost the ability to inform. In an effort to shed light on the problem, her team devised a bold idea: a Blank Front Page,” recounted Holmann.
The blank canvas conveyed a powerful message
“Our intention was to illustrate the void that would envelop independent journalism, allowing the state to shape its narrative without any scrutiny. The blank canvas conveyed a powerful message, encouraging our audience to reflect on a world where unbiased reporting and unrestricted facts do not exist,” he expressed.
“The response to our simple yet profound gesture of the Blank Front Page was extraordinary and deeply moving. People passionate about the cause flooded social media with images of the Blank Front Page with headlines they wanted to see. They expressed their desire for change and denounced the rampant injustices and human rights violations in our country. The response, which emerged organically, exceeded our expectations and resonated far beyond what we had anticipated,” added the general manager of LA PRENSA.
The impact of the protest
“The success of this cover prompted a series of covers that exposed another aspect of government interference: the illegal confiscation of ink. Each day, for four days, LA PRENSA published the cover in each of the four colors used in the newspaper’s printing.
“Each cover served as a powerful statement about the ongoing struggle for freedom of expression,” said Holmann.
“The paper and ink were released without explanation in February 2020. The retention had lasted nearly 20 months.
“We achieved another significant success with the help of the agency behind the ink campaign. We submitted our work to the 66th edition of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Our hard work paid off when we were selected as one of the seven finalists in the Co-Creation and User-Generated Content category,” said Holmann.
The confiscation of LA PRENSA
Despite the entire staff of LA PRENSA resisting censorship for months and then continuing their publications on-line, the Ortega regime intensified its attacks to the extent of imprisoning the general manager, seizing the newspaper’s facilities, and persecuting journalists.
“In August 2021, the regime delivered a final blow to our print edition, confiscated our facilities, and illegally imprisoned our general manager. Our newsroom, greatly diminished, had to go into exile, and since then, we have been informing Nicaraguans and the world about the reality of Nicaragua on our digital platform laprensani.com and through our social media. Our journey, which began with adversities, has transformed into a compelling story of perseverance, resistance, and the unbreakable spirit of those who refuse to be silenced,” concluded Holmann.