Stewart in 1963
William D. Stewart
|Died||June 20, 1979 (aged 37)|
|Known for||Murdered by the National Guard (Nicaragua)|
William D. "Bill" Stewart (1941 – June 20, 1979) was an American journalist with ABC News who was summarily murdered by Nicaraguan government National Guard ("Guardia") forces while reporting on the Nicaraguan Revolution as Sandinista rebel forces were closing in on the capital city of Managua in 1979.Footage of his execution was repeatedly broadcast on network television, resulting in an uproar against the Somoza regime in the United States.
ABC News is the news division of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), owned by the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. Its flagship program is the daily evening newscast ABC World News Tonight with David Muir; other programs include morning news-talk show Good Morning America, newsmagazine series Nightline, Primetime and 20/20, and Sunday morning political affairs program This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Managua is the country's capital and largest city and is also the third-largest city in Central America, behind Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City. The multi-ethnic population of six million includes people of indigenous, European, African, and Asian heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.
The National Guard was a militia and a gendarmerie created during the occupation of that country by the United States from 1909 to 1933. It became notorious for human rights abuses and corruption under the regime of the Somoza family.
Stewart, originally from West Virginia, was a 1963 graduate of The Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, Stewart was active in many extracurricular activities including the Student Senate and the Sphinx honorary society, as well as a member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.He came to ABC News from WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. An experienced foreign correspondent, Stewart's assignments included coverage of the Iranian Revolution in February 1979. He had been in Nicaragua for ten days reporting on the civil war between the Somoza dynasty and the leftist Sandinistas.
West Virginia is a state located in the Appalachian region in the Southern United States and is also considered to be a part of the Middle Atlantic States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 41st largest state by area, and is ranked 38th in population. The capital and largest city is Charleston.
Alpha Tau Omega (ΑΤΩ), commonly known as ATO, is an American social fraternity founded at the Virginia Military Institute in 1865. The fraternity has around 250 active and inactive chapters and colonies in the United States and has initiated more than 250,000 members. VMI Cadets are no longer associated with the fraternity. In 1885, the VMI Board of Visitors ruled that cadets could no longer join fraternities based on the belief that allegiance to a fraternal group undermined the cohesiveness of and loyalty to the Corps of Cadets.
WCCO-TV, virtual channel 4, is a CBS owned-and-operated television station, licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States and serving the Twin Cities television market. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation. WCCO-TV's studios are located on South 11th Street along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, and its transmitter is located at the Telefarm complex in Shoreview, Minnesota.
On June 20, 1979, Stewart was traveling in a press van in the eastern slums of the capital city of Managua with his camera and sound crew when they were stopped at a roadblock run by the Nicaraguan Guardia (lit. Guardia Nacional, or National Guard), the main force of President Anastasio Somoza Debayle. The van was clearly marked as a press vehicle as a precaution, which had become standard practice as the insurgency and revolution increased in intensity.On the previous day the government newspaper Novedades had run an editorial describing foreign journalists as "part of the vast network of communist propaganda".
Anastasio "Tachito" Somoza DeBayle was a Nicaraguan dictator and officially the President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979. He was the last member of the Somoza family to be President, ending a dynasty that had been in power since 1936. After being overthrown in an insurrection led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, he fled Nicaragua and power was ceded to the Junta of National Reconstruction. He was eventually assassinated while in exile in Paraguay.
Stewart and his 26-year-old Nicaraguan interpreter, Juan Francisco Espinosa, exited the vehicle and approached the barricade.Stewart presented official press credentials issued by the office of the Nicaraguan president. When they were a few meters away from the soldiers, cameraman Jack Clark spontaneously began filming from inside the van. A guardsman ordered the men to separate, and Stewart was ordered first to kneel and then to lie face down on the ground. A soldier approached Stewart, kicked him once in the ribs, then stepped back and shot him behind his right ear, killing him instantly. Juan Espinosa had been shot to death off-camera by a different soldier, apparently before Stewart was killed, after he approached the guards to ask their permission for an interview. The driver of the ABC van, Pablo Tiffer López, would later testify that a soldier remarked of Stewart, "I'm sure he's no journalist. He's a dog." He also testified that when the soldiers realized they had killed an American journalist they commanded the crew to report that a Sandinista sniper was responsible.
Stewart was 37 years old. He was survived by his wife, Myrna, and his parents.His body was retrieved by his crew and flown on an Air Force C-130 from Nicaragua to Panama, then transferred to an airplane sent by ABC and returned to the United States. Stewart was buried in Ashland, Kentucky.
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country's 4 million people.
Ashland is a home rule-class city in Boyd County, Kentucky, in the United States. Ashland, the largest city in Boyd County, is located upon the southern bank of the Ohio River. The population was 21,684 at the 2010 census. Ashland is a part of the Huntington-Ashland metropolitan area; with a population of 363,000. Ashland is the second-largest city within the MSA, after Huntington, West Virginia. Ashland serves as an important economic and medical center for northeast Kentucky and is part of the fifth-largest metropolitan area in Kentucky.
The footage of Stewart's killing was smuggled out of the country by his crew and sent to New York.The three major American networks—ABC, NBC, and CBS—ran the footage in their evening news broadcasts and repeatedly rebroadcast the clip in the following days. Millions of viewers in the United States and worldwide reacted with shock and outrage towards the Somoza regime. All three networks protested the killings by withdrawing their personnel from the country, with only CBS leaving a single correspondent to cover the conflict. President Jimmy Carter issued a statement describing the murder as "an act of barbarism that all civilized people condemn."
The Big Three television networks are the three major traditional commercial broadcast television networks in the United States: the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), CBS and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Until the 80's, the Big Three networks dominated U.S. television.
The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.
CBS is an American English language commercial broadcast television and radio network that is a flagship property of CBS Corporation. The company is headquartered at the CBS Building in New York City with major production facilities and operations in New York City and Los Angeles.
Shortly after the killings, the Nicaraguan national guard reported that they had arrested Corporal Lorenzo Brenes ("Brenis" in some reports), the corporal responsible for Stewart's murder, and that he would be "brought before legal officers".Brenes, who had been in command of the roadblock, testified before a military tribunal that he had not witnessed the shootings. He said that Stewart's killer was a "Private González" who was killed in combat later the same day; this elicited audible reactions of disbelief from the international press corps when announced at an official news conference. Brenes testified that the private, whose first name he claimed not to know (but was later reported as "Pedro"), related to him that he had killed Stewart "because he tried to run away". The ultimate fates of the Guardia soldiers responsible for the killings of Stewart and Espinoza are unknown due to the chaotic demise of Somoza's military regime. Somoza fled Nicaragua for Miami on July 17, and the regime was overthrown on July 19, 1979, less than a month after Stewart's murder.
A fictional version of Stewart's murder was told in the 1983 film, Under Fire , starring Gene Hackman, Nick Nolte, and Joanna Cassidy.Hackman's Alex Grazier and Nolte's Russell Price are amalgamations of Bill Stewart's life and career as a journalist and war correspondent. In the film, Stewart's death is presented differently: Hackman's character is shot in the chest while standing up, and his death is captured in a series of still images by Nolte's character, who escapes from the scene in a hail of gunfire. As in Stewart's case, the images are shown to television audiences around the world, and the public outcry signals the end for the embattled Somoza dictatorship.
Nicaragua is the third least densely populated nation in Central America, with a demographic similar in size to its smaller neighbors. It is located about midway between Mexico and Colombia, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Nicaragua ranges from the Caribbean Sea on the nation's east coast, and the Pacific Ocean bordering the west. Nicaragua also possesses a series of islands and cays located in the Caribbean Sea.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua.
Benjamin Ernest "Ben" Linder, was an American engineer. While working on a small hydroelectric dam in rural northern Nicaragua Linder was killed by the Contras, a loose confederation of rebel groups funded by the U.S. government. Coming at a time when U.S. support for the Contras was already highly controversial, Linder's death made front-page headlines around the world and further polarized opinion in the United States.
Anastasio "Tacho" Somoza García was officially the 21st President of Nicaragua from 1 January 1937 to 1 May 1947 and from 21 May 1950 to 29 September 1956, but ruled effectively as dictator from 1936 until his assassination. Anastasio Somoza started a dynasty that maintained absolute control over Nicaragua for 55 years.
Augusto C. Sandino, also known as Augusto Nicolás Calderón Sandino, was a Nicaraguan revolutionary and leader of a rebellion between 1927 and 1933 against the U.S. military occupation of Nicaragua. He was referred to as a "bandit" by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States' domination. He drew units of the United States Marine Corps into an undeclared guerrilla war. The United States troops withdrew from the country in 1933 after overseeing the election and inauguration of President Juan Bautista Sacasa, who had returned from exile. The re-call of the Marines was largely due to the Great Depression.
The Nicaraguan Revolution encompassed the rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, the campaign led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to violently oust the dictatorship in 1978–79, the subsequent efforts of the FSLN to govern Nicaragua from 1979 until 1990 and the Contra War which was waged between the FSLN-led government of Nicaragua and the United States-backed Contras from 1981-1990.
Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal was a Nicaraguan journalist and publisher. He was the editor of La Prensa, the only significant opposition newspaper to the long rule of the Somoza family. He is a 1977 laureate of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize of the University of Columbia. He married Violeta Barrios de Chamorro who later went on to become President of Nicaragua (1990-1996). In 1978, he was shot to death, one of the precipitating events of the overthrow of the Somoza regime the following year.
Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños was a Nicaraguan politician, who served as Vice President of Anastasio Somoza Debayle from May 1967 to May 1972. He was born in Rivas.
Carlos Fonseca Amador was a Nicaraguan teacher and librarian who founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Fonseca was later killed in the mountains of Nicaragua, three years before the FSLN took power.
Miguel Obando y Bravo was a Nicaraguan prelate of the Catholic Church. He was the Archbishop of Managua from 1970 to 2005. Pope John Paul II created him a cardinal in 1985.
Ayax Delgado Lopez was the son of a coffee grower in northern Nicaragua, Santiago Delgado Guevara and his mother was Luz Lopez Rivera. Ayax was born in Jinotega, Nicaragua, July 14, 1941, and was murdered September 5, 1960. He had one brother, Ruy Delgado Lopez, born in Managua, Nicaragua, June 22, 1949, and five sisters. At a very young age, he became a student activist against the Somoza regime. Ayax also spent a year in Oxford. His father was a former member of the National Guard trained by the United States Marines during the Sandino period. Around the time when Anastasio Somoza García seized power of the National Guard, Ayax's father, Santiago Delgado, conspired with his brother, Edmundo Delgado, and Abelardo Cuadra, among other National Guard members, to overthrow Somoza from power.
General Humberto Ortega Saavedra is a Nicaraguan military leader, often self-called leading Latin American revolutionary strategist, and published writer. He was Minister of Defense between the victory of the Sandinista revolution in 1979 under the National Reconstruction Government, through the first presidency of his brother Daniel Ortega Saavedra, and through the presidency of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro who defeated Daniel Ortega in the elections of 1990.
Carlos Alberto Brenes Jarquín was the President of Nicaragua from 9 June 1936 to 1 January 1937. He was a member of the Nationalist Liberal Party. Brenes was the president of the lower chamber of National Congress of Nicaragua in 1933. He was installed as president by national guard commander Anastasio Somoza Garcia following a military coup on 9 June 1936, and remained in office until Somoza became president on January 1, 1937.
Rigoberto López Pérez was a Nicaraguan poet, artist and composer. He assassinated Anastasio Somoza García, the longtime dictator of Nicaragua.
Nora Josefina Astorga Gadea de Jenkins was a Nicaraguan guerrilla fighter in the Nicaraguan Revolution, a lawyer, politician, judge and the Nicaraguan ambassador to the United Nations from 1986 to 1988.
Under Fire is a 1983 American political thriller film set during the last days of the Nicaraguan Revolution that ended the Somoza regime in 1979 Nicaragua. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, it stars Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman and Joanna Cassidy. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, which featured well-known jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, was nominated for an Academy Award. The editing by Mark Conte and John Bloom was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Editing. The film was shot in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.
Tomás Borge Martínez was a cofounder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua and was Interior Minister of Nicaragua during one of the administrations of Daniel Ortega. He was also a renowned statesman, writer, and politician. Tomás Borge also held the titles of "Vice-Secretary and President of the FSLN", member of the Nicaraguan Parliament and National Congress, and Ambassador to Peru. Considered a hardliner, he led the "prolonged people's war" tendency within the FSLN until his death.
Camilo Ortega Saavedra (1950-1978) was a Nicaraguan revolutionary and the younger brother of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and former Nicaraguan Minister of Defense Humberto Ortega.