On January 18, 2019, during an embargo of newsprint and ink for its print publication, LA PRENSA took to the streets with its entire front page blank. That completely wordless page served as a silent yet powerful protest against censorship and harassment of independent journalists.
LA PRENSA’s Blank Front Page made a strong international impact because censorship repulses human conscience across all cultures. Moreover, it was the last remaining printed newspaper in Nicaragua, on the brink of disappearing due to repression and total censorship. And it did vanish, but more than two year later when the regime took over the facilities, manu military, and only in its paper edition, as its digital version continued to be published without interruption.
Now, that memorable blank page from LA PRENSA, which stirred emotions with its meaning and originality, is on display at the prestigious National Press Club in Washington, DC. The enlarged copy of the historic Blank Front Page of LA PRENSA was presented to the club by our general manager, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, who endured 545 days in jail as a victim of the regime’s repression against freedom of expression, the press, and all democratic liberties and human rights of the Nicaraguan people.
“It’s a blank page that speaks volumes,” expressed Juan Lorenzo while handing over this historical treasure to CNBC journalist Emily Wilkins, who is also the president of the National Press Club of the United States. He added that this blank page “speaks volumes because it not only represents the censorship of LA PRENSA but of journalism in Nicaragua.”
“Our intention was to illustrate the void that would envelop independent journalism, allowing the state to shape its narrative without any scrutiny,” added the executive official of LA PRENSA. “The blank canvas conveyed a powerful message, encouraging our audience to reflect on a world where unbiased reporting and unrestricted facts cease to exist.”
“The most important thing is that it drew attention to what is happening to us, something that can happen to anyone anywhere in the world; the significance for citizens to be informed, and the harm caused by the lack of truthful information,” added the chief executive of LA PRENSA, a newspaper that will celebrate a century of service to truth, justice, and the defense of freedom in a couple of years.
A blank sheet or page holds a dual, profound, and transcendent significance, says Vivian Mayén, a Guatemalan teacher, linguist, and journalist. On one hand, it signifies that a society without literature and thus without written journalism “is a country without a voice, without history, without knowledge.” But at the same time, the blank sheet or page “holds much power because it represents the possibility of breaking the silence through writing as a medium.”
According to symbologists, white is the color of truth, honesty, and sincerity, precisely the values of journalism practiced by LA PRENSA. And when freedom is restored in Nicaragua, and LA PRENSA regains the facilities that have been taken from them, their paper’s pages will once again be filled with truthful letters, words, and ideas that honor the exercise of freedom of expression and the press.
We have no doubt and a profound hope that it will indeed be so.