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Local human rights defenders are facing smear campaigns led by public officials, death threats, attacks and judicial harassment. Women human rights defenders working to advance sexual and reproductive rights as well as combating violence against women and girls have been particularly targeted by pro-government forces, as the feminist movement remains one of the most well organised networks pressing not only for women's human rights but also against corruption and authoritarianism.

Indigenous and environmental rights defenders, particularly those working to preserve their ancestral land in the Autonomous Atlantic regions, the Bosawás and Indio Maíz natural reserves, have been particularly at risk of violent attacks from actors involved in mining activities, illegal logging and farming. Violent attacks and killings against indigenous rights and environmental rights often go unpunished, as the government continues to encourage the expansion of the agricultural frontier into indigenous land. Indigenous and environmental rights defenders who oppose the Chinese-sponsored construction of the inter-oceanic canal have also been threatened and attacked.

Human rights defenders who are foreign and who come to the country to monitor the human rights situation, support other defenders and/or collect information for strategic litigation cases have been arbitrarily expelled from the country.

New legislation has also increased barriers to the creation of new non-governmental organisations and restricted freedom of speech.